A kind of electrical generator that uses rotating permanent magnets to induce a brief high-voltage electrical current. The opposite of an electromagnet. Used mainly in the ignition system of cars and other gasoline-powered vehicles.

A supervillain created by Stan Lee and published by Marvel Comics. Magneto first appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #1.

Erik Magnus Lehnsherr was the only son of an upper class Jewish family in Poland in the 1920's. Lehnsherr's early life was relatively normal, until when he was in his early teens, Nazi forces entered his small village, killing his entire family. Lehnsherr survived being gunned down, an act that he attributed to the first manifestation of his mutant powers. Lehnsherr possessed the ability to create magnetic fields, allowing him to manipulate iron-based metals. After he was captured by the German forces, Lehnsherr was sent to Auschwitz where he stayed until the camp was liberated by Soviet forces. In that hellish place, Lehnsherr acquired a deep hatred for humanity, seeing it at its worst.

When Lehnsherr left Auschwitz, he traveled with a gypsy girl named Magda. The two were married and had a daughter named Anya. The two moved from town to town, while Lehnsherr searched for work. In one village, Lehnsherr was cheated of his pay by a foreman, and his power again manifested itself. Lehnsherr in his anger caused a crowbar to attack the foreman. The foreman called the authorities. Lehnsherr fled, but the authorities caught up with him at his home, which they set fire to. The fire killed his young daughter, driving Lehnsherr into a rage. Lehnsherr used his powers to exact revenge upon his foes.

Lehnsherr's wife, Magda, fled, frightened of her husband's powers. She traveled to Wundagore Mountain, where she was taken in by the High Evolutionary. Magda was pregnant, though she had not told her mate. On Wundgore, Magda gave birth, but died in the process. The two children, Wanda and Pietro, were given into the care of a gypsy couple named Maximoff. The two children were also mutants and would later become known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

Magnus searched for his bride, but never found her. He traveled to Israel where he worked with those who were displaced due to the Holocaust. Here he first came into contact with Charles Xavier. The two became friends, debating whether humanity and mutantkind would ever be able to peacefully coexist.

While in Israel the two came into conflict with former Nazi, Baron Von Strucker. Von Strucker sought information from a woman that Xavier and Magnus were friends with Gabrielle Reese. The two battled Von Stucker, defeating him. Magnus left, having stolen the gold that Von Strucker was searching for to finance his dream of mutant supremacy.

The next time that Xavier and Magus met was in completely different circumstances. Xavier's students, a group of young mutants called the X-Men fought Magnus, now calling himself Magneto at the Cape Citadel missile base. Magneto led a group of outlaw mutants, he had dubbed the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, which included, the Blob, the Toad, Mastermind, and Magneto's own children, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. It would be years before Magneto would find out that these two young mutants were his children.

The X-Men defeated Magneto's force, but the groups would clash again. Magneto came into conflict with the Avengers as well as the Fantastic Four also. Magnus eventually allied himself with a being he called Alpha the Ultimate Mutant, who Magneto had genetically engineered. The creature used its awesome powers to change Magneto into a 6-month old infant. The infant was given into the care of Moira MacTaggert, a genetics expert. MacTaggert attempted to change Magnus's genes to ensure that he would not grow up again to be the villain he was.

Magnus was eventually returned to adulthood, by Eric the Red a Shi'ar agent. He again came into conflict with the X-Men, although the group had changed from the original team. He fought this new group a number of times. During one of their encounters, Magnus injured the young mutant Kitty Pryde and began to question his motives.

Magneto eventually turned himself over to the authorities to answer for his crimes. A trial took place in Paris and Magneto was eventually exonerated for his crimes. The trial was attacked by the children of Baron Von Strucker who go by the name Fenris. During their battle with the X-Men, Charles Xavier succumbed to injuries he had sustained earlier. Xavier's life would have ended, except for intervention of his love, the Shi'ar Majestrix Lilandra. Xavier asked Magnus to take over as leader of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and Magnus accepted.

Magnus began training the New Mutants for a time, but eventually, their mistrust of him, the death of his student Doug Ramsey, and the passage of the Mutant Registration Act, drove Magnus back into conflict with the X-Men.

Magus eventually learned of MacTaggert's manipulation of him while he was an infant. This drove him farther from Xavier and the X-Men. About the same time, Magneto gained a new group of followers, dubbed the Acolytes. One of the Acolytes, named Fabien Cortez used his powers to boost Magneto's, but causing him harm in the process. Magnus eventually became reliant upon Cortez to be able to use his abilities.

Another of the Acolytes, a mutant named Exodus, was the catalyst for Magneto creating an orbiting mutant nation called Avalon. When the Legacy Virus began to strike mutants on Earth, Magneto put out a call that any mutant who wished sanctuary could join him there. Colossus, the Russian X-Man, who had recently lost his sister Illyana to the Virus, accepted and became one of Magneto's Acolytes. The nations of the Earth attempted to defend themselves from the threat that Magnus posed by creating a magnetic web over the earth. Magnus responded by creating an electric magnetic pulse, that shut down power worldwide.

The X-Men fought Magneto to stop him, and during the battle, Magneto caused the adamantium that had been bonded to the bones of the hero Wolverine to be pulled from his body. In response, Xavier used his awesome mental abilities to shut down Magnus's mind. Colossus saved the helpless Magneto as his orbiting base was destroyed.

The villainess Astra found Magneto and restored his mind, but also created a duplicate of him. This duplicate, who called himself Joseph, believed himself to be Magneto. Joseph allied himself with the X-Men, helping them in their battle against Bastion and the threat of Onslaught. Joseph eventually went off to try and find out about his past, with the mutant heroine Sabra.

In the meantime, Magneto used an old base of his Antarctica to work on a plan to sow trouble in the X-Men ranks. He disguised himself as Eric the Red and accused the X-Man Gambit of past misdeeds. He then began his plan to hold the world hostage until they established a mutant homeland. This again brought the X-Men into battle with their old foe and the ensuing battle cost the group the life of Joseph. At the end of the battle, the United Nations gave control of the island nation of Genosha to Magneto. Recently, the nation of Genosha was attacked by an advanced series of Sentinels and Magneto was believed to be killed in that attack.


Thanks to Walter for the latest update on Magnus's mortality. Also, thanks to NothingLasts4ever for a clarification of the method of his demise.

One of the most powerful mutants of the Marvel Comics universe, Magneto has been the principle nemesis of Charles Xavier and the X-Men for years.

While most of comic-dom is obviously rooted in science-fiction, Magneto's powers make quite a bit of scientific sense. Of course, the idea that a human being could create and subsequently manipulate magnetic fields is a bit of a leap, but once we're past that, almost everything Magneto does in the X-Men comic books is explainable. One of the most common misconceptions held by readers of the X-Men comic books is that Magneto's powers are a work of BS, and that he should only be able to manipulate metals that are iron alloys. In other words, Magneto must work like your common fridge magnet. However, studying a little physics teaches us that this is not the case.

Magneto's main ability is that he can create and alter magnetic fields. Basic electromagnetic physics teaches us that an electric current and magnetic fields are closely related. The following two rules from physics are what give Magneto his ability to manipulate any conductor of electricity:

1) A magnetic field exerts force on electric current.

2) A changing magnetic field (in either direction or intensity) creates an electric current in a conductor.

So basically, by creating and changing Magnetic fields, Magneto should be able to create electric currents in metals. Once the electric current is there, Magneto can then use his magnetic fields to exert force upon the object in question.

The interesting thing is that this applies to any conductor. So, although this is never done in the comics, Magneto should be able to manipulate water as he wishes. In addition, since changing magnetic fields create electric currents in conductors, Magneto could probably electrocute a lot of careless people in pools if he felt like it.

One last point of interest. Organic matter (in fact many kinds of matter, in varying degrees) possesses a property known as diamagnetism. In the presence of a magnetic field, diamagnetic materials produce a magnetic field in the opposite direction. Scientists have used this property to float frogs in midair, as well as superconductors. So, in actuality, if Magneto really wanted to, he could lift us all up, despite the fact that we have no large concentrations of metal in our bodies.

While many comic book characters have powers that are just plain ludicrous in their magnitude and reach, Magneto's are actually rooted in strong science (even if the Marvel guys are unaware of it). If you really wanted to simulate Magneto's powers in real life, just start playing around with anything that makes a magnetic field, like a large solenoid or something like that. You could be tearing apart Sentinels or floating frogs in no time.

The magneto is a mechanism which generates electrical energy from mechanical energy. More specifically, most magnetos take a rotating component and a static component and produce alternating current. They are most commonly used today in aviation, in the ignition system of reciprocating engine aircraft.

Essentially, the magneto consists of a set of permanent magnets and a coiled wire. When the coiled wire is rotated within the magnetic fields of the permanent magnets, it produces a pulsed, alternating current as the wire moves into and then out of each magnet's field. This is in contrast to a dynamo or generator, which is designed to produce direct current. Some magnetos have fixed magnets and rotate the coiled wire; others have a fixed coil and rotate the magnets, but the output is the same.

The magneto was originally used in automobile engines to provide a current source for the ignition spark plugs. The pulsed power from the magneto could be fed through a transformer to produce very high voltage (but brief) pulses, perfect for spark plugs. Automobiles in the early 20th century typically used magnetos. One advantage to the magneto was that it allowed the car to be started with the application of motion; before electric starter motors became common, cars were started by a crank. That crank would rotate the magneto as well as the engine, generating power for the spark plugs. Early aircraft engines worked the same way; to start them, the ignition system was connected up and the propeller (and the engine crankshaft) were spun by hand. This would cause the magneto to generate power to the spark plugs, and the engine would (hopefully) start, and the person turning the propeller would (hopefully) get out of the way.

Aircraft engines, which needed all the reliability they could get, began to include dual magneto systems. Since the magneto itself was a relatively simple, small mechanism, not that heavy, each cylinder of the engine could have two spark plugs - each fed off a different magneto. This not only provided dual ignition (which meant more efficient fuel burn as well as increased possible fuel burn) but it meant that in the event a magneto failed, the engine would continue working.

Today, in small general aviation aircraft like the Cessna SkyHawk, the engine ignition is done by magnetos. The ignition switch has three settings: 1, 2 and Both. Turning the key to 'start' and then releasing it will leave it in the 'Both' position - this switches both magnetos into their ignition circuits. However, as part of the run up checklist, before flight, dual-magneto airplanes will have an item which directs the crew to test the magnetos individually. To do so, once the engine has started, the ignition is moved from 'Both' to '1', and then back to 'Both' - then to '2' and back. Each time the switch is moved to a single magneto a slight drop in engine RPM should be seen as the engine ignition loses some efficiency as half its spark plugs stop working. If moving the switch to either 1 or 2 does not produce a drop, the crew should immediately have the aircraft checked over by a certified powerplant technician - because what has likely happened is that one ignition circuit has become shorted, or both have shorted to each other. In this case, any failure of the circuit will cause both ignition systems to fail, and this is what pilots call Not A Good Thing(tm). The other possibility is that if one magneto has failed, switching to it during the test will cause the engine to stop as the spark is removed. This is another excellent sign that your aircraft engine should be serviced.

Automobiles, for whom engine reliability is not nearly as life-critical, rely on cheaper and more efficient battery-and-coil systems to drive all plugs. The battery and ignition coil system means that the starter motor isn't responsible for generating enough oomph to both turn the motor and generate enough power to fire the plugs, so the starter motor can be smaller. Also, weight is not nearly as much of a penalty on the car, so the battery can be larger; thus, in the event that your (single) alternator does fail, a car can actually be driven quite a ways solely on the contents of the battery. The magnetos give an aircraft a redundant system without having to double the weight of the heavy battery. The ignition coil (along with a distributor or electronic ignition system) is useful if you want to be able to tweak the ignition timing of the engine, as well; if the engine rotation itself is producing the spark, it's very difficult to get the ignition system to fire at a different time. However, this is most useful for engines that change their speed frequently, and airplane motors don't do this. Plus, it's another complex and fragile system whose loss can render the engine inoperable.

StuartO))) points out, quite correctly, that magnetos are also still used in small motors which are not used regularly or for long, such as in chainsaws and lawn mowers.

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