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In 1900, researchers interested in Earth's magnetism generally proclaimed all facets of magnetic phenomena to be within their purview. Most researchers in this field referred to themselves as ‘magneticians’ first and physicists or geologists second. After World War II, specialization increased. A number of distinct research areas appeared over several decades: the geodynamo theory and the study of the core—mantle boundary; palaeo-magnetism and its growing connection to geology; the production of induced fields in Earth's crust; and, among others, the electromagnetic phenomena of the upper atmosphere and near space. The former unity dissolved and the field fragmented. One result of fragmentation has been a loss of memory and a consequent misinterpretation of an important part of the history of geoscience. This paper relates the challenges of recovering a history obscured by later events.

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