ALEXANDER NECKAM (1157-1217), English schoolman and man of science, was born at St Albans in September 1157, on the same night as King Richard I.
For in his De naturis rerum and De utensilibus (the former of which, at any rate, had become well known at the end of the 12th century, and was probably written about 1180) Neckam has preserved to us the earliest European notices of the magnet as a guide to seamen - outside China, indeed, these seem to be the earliest notices of this mystery of nature that have survived in any country or civilization.
It was probably in Paris, the chief intellectual centre of his time, that Neckam heard how a ship, among its other stores, must have a needle placed above a magnet (the De utensilibus assumes a needle mounted on a pivot), which needle would revolve until its point looked north, and thus guide sailors in murky weather or on starless nights.
It is noteworthy that Neckam has no air of imparting a startling novelty: he merely records what had apparently become the regular practice of at least many seamen of the Catholic world.
Neckam also wrote Corrogationes Promethei, a scriptural commentary prefaced by a treatise on grammatical criticism; a translation of Aesop into Latin elegiacs (six fables from this version, as given in a Paris MS., are printed in Robert's Fables inedites); commentaries, still unprinted, on portions of Aristotle, Martianus Capella and Ovid's Metamorphoses, and other works.
Roger Bacon's reference to Neckam as a grammatical writer (in multis vera et utilia scripsit: sed.
The principle of applying metallic films to glass seems to have been known to the Romans and even to the Egyptians, and is mentioned by Alexander Neckam in the 12th century, but it would appear that it was not until the 16th century that the process of " silvering " mirrors by the use of an amalgam of tin and mercury had been perfected.
Another version of Romulus in Latin elegiacs was made by Alexander Neckam, born at St Albans in 1157.
Chap. 9, part 2); but the earliest definite mention as yet known of the use of the mariner's compass in the middle ages occurs in a treatise entitled De utensilibus, written by Alexander Neckam in the r 2th century.
Adams's Paulus Aegineta, p. 99), and Alexander Neckam, a writer of the 12th century (see Wright's edition of his works, p. 473, 1863), recommends it as a palliative of the heat of the sun in field labour.