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COMPASS PLANT—COMPENSATION

Prior to this clear description of a pivoted compass by Peregrinus in 1269, the Italian sailors had used the floating magnet, probably introduced into this region of the Mediterranean by traders belonging to the port of Amalfi, as commemorated in the line of the poet Panormita:—

“Prima dedit nautis usum magnetis Amalphis.”

This opinion is supported by the historian Flavius Blondus in his Italia illustrata, written about 1450, who adds that its certain origin is unknown. In 1511 Baptista Pio in his Commentary repeats the opinion as to the invention of the use of the magnet at Amalfi as related by Flavius. Gyraldus, writing in 1540 (Libellus de re nautica), misunderstanding this reference, declared that this observation of the direction of the magnet to the poles had been handed down as discovered “by a certain Flavius.” From this passage arose a legend, which took shape only in the 17th century, that the compass was invented in the year 1302 by a person to whom was given the fictitious name of Flavio Gioja, of Amalfi.

From the above it will have been evident that, as Barlowe remarks concerning the compass, “the lame tale of one Flavius at Amelphus, in the kingdome of Naples, for to have devised it, is of very slender probabilitie”; and as regards the assertion of Dr Gilbert, of Colchester (De magnete, p. 4, 1600), that Marco Polo introduced the compass into Italy from the East in 1260,[1] we need only quote the words of Sir H. Yule (Book of Marco Polo):— “Respecting the mariner’s compass and gunpowder, I shall say nothing, as no one now, I believe, imagines Marco to have had anything to do with their introduction.”

When, and by whom, the compass card was added is a matter of conjecture. Certainly the Rosa Ventorum, or Wind-rose, is far older than the compass itself; and the naming of the eight principal “winds” goes back to the Temple of the Winds in Athens built by Andronicus Cyrrhestes. The earliest known wind-roses on the portulani or sailing charts of the Mediterranean pilots have almost invariably the eight principal points marked with the initials of the principal winds, Tramontano, Greco, Levante, Scirocco, Ostro, Africo (or Libeccio), Ponente and Maestro, or with a cross instead of L, to mark the east point. The north point, indicated in some of the oldest compass cards with a broad arrow-head or a spear, as well as with a T for Tramontano, gradually developed by a combination of these, about 1492, into a fleur de lis, still universal. The cross at the east continued even in British compasses till about 1700. Wind-roses with these characteristics are found in Venetian and Genoese charts of early 14th century, and are depicted similarly by the Spanish navigators. The naming of the intermediate subdivisions making up the thirty-two points or rhumbs of the compass card is probably due to Flemish navigators; but they were recognized even in the time of Chaucer, who in 1391 wrote, “Now is thin Orisonte departed in xxiiii partiez by thi azymutz, in significacion of xxiiii partiez of the world: al be it so that ship men rikne thilke partiez in xxxii” (Treatise on the Astrolabe, ed. Skeat, Early English Text Soc., London, 1872). The mounting of the card upon the needle or “flie,” so as to turn with it, is probably of Amalphian origin. Da Buti, the Dante commentator, in 1380 says the sailors use a compass at the middle of which is pivoted a wheel of light paper to turn on its pivot, on which wheel the needle is fixed and the star (wind-rose) painted. The placing of the card at the bottom of the box, fixed, below the needle, was practised by the compass-makers of Nuremberg in the 16th century, and by Stevinus of Bruges about 1600. The gimbals or rings for suspension hinged at right-angles to one another, have been erroneously attributed to Cardan, the proper term being cardine, that is hinged or pivoted. The earliest description of them is about 1604. The term binnacle, originally bittacle, is a corruption of the Portuguese abitacolo, to denote the housing enclosing the compass, probably originating with the Portuguese navigators.

The improvement of the compass has been but a slow process. The Libel of English Policie, a poem of the first half of the 15th century, says with reference to Iceland (chap. x.)—

“Out of Bristowe, and costes many one,
Men haue practised by nedle and by stone
Thider wardes within a litle while.”
Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, p. 201 (London, 1599).

From this it would seem that the compasses used at that time by English mariners were of a very primitive description. Barlowe, in his treatise Magnetical Advertisements, printed in 1616 (p. 66), complains that “the Compasse needle, being the most admirable and usefull instrument of the whole world, is both amongst ours and other nations for the most part, so bungerly and absurdly contrived, as nothing more.” The form he recommends for the needle is that of “a true circle, having his Axis going out beyond the circle, at each end narrow and narrower, unto a reasonable sharpe point, and being pure steele as the circle it selfe is, having in the middest a convenient receptacle to place the capitell in.” In 1750 Dr Gowan Knight found that the needles of merchant-ships were made of two pieces of steel bent in the middle and united in the shape of a rhombus, and proposed to substitute straight steel bars of small breadth, suspended edgewise and hardened throughout. He also showed that the Chinese mode of suspending the needle conduces most to sensibility. In 1820 Peter Barlow reported to the Admiralty that half the compasses in the British Navy were mere lumber and ought to be destroyed. He introduced a pattern having four or five parallel straight strips of magnetized steel fixed under a card, a form which remained the standard admiralty type until the introduction of the modern Thomson (Kelvin) compass in 1876.  (F. H. B.; S. P. T.) 


COMPASS PLANT, a native of the North American prairies, which takes its name from the position assumed by the leaves. These turn their edges to north and south, thus avoiding the excessive mid-day heat, while getting the full benefit of the morning and evening rays. The plant is known botanically as Silphium laciniatum, and belongs to the natural order Compositae. Another member of the same order, Lactuca Scariola, which has been regarded as the origin of the cultivated lettuce (L. sativa), behaves in the same way when growing in dry exposed places; it is a native of Europe and northern Asia which has got introduced into North America.


COMPAYRE, JULES GABRIEL (1843–  ), French educationalist, was born at Albi. He entered the École Normale Supérieure in 1862 and became professor of philosophy. In 1876 he was appointed professor in the Faculty of Letters of Toulouse, and upon the creation of the École normale d’institutrices at Fontenay aux Roses he became teacher of pedagogy (1880). From 1881 to 1889 he was deputy for Lavaur in the chamber, and took an active part in the discussions on public education. Defeated at the elections of 1889, he was appointed rector of the academy of Poitiers in 1890, and five years later to the academy of Lyons. His principal publications are his Histoire critique des doctrines de l’éducation en France (1879); Éléments d’éducation civique (1881), a work placed on the index at Rome, but very widely read in the primary schools of France; Cours de pédagogie théorique et pratique (1885, 13th ed., 1897); The Intellectual and Moral Development of the Child, in English (2 vols., New York, 1896–1902); and a series of monographs on Les Grands Éducateurs.


COMPENSATION (from Lat. compensare, to weigh one thing against another), a term applied in English law to a number of different forms of legal reparation; e.g. under the Forfeiture Act 1870 (s. 4), for loss of property caused by felony, or—under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886—to persons whose property has been stolen, destroyed or injured by rioters (see Riot). It is due, under the Agricultural Holdings Acts 1883–1906, for agricultural improvements (see Landlord and Tenant; cf. also Allotments and Small Holdings), and under the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1906 to workmen, in respect of accidents in the course of their employment (see Employers’ Liability); and under the Licensing Act 1904, to the payments to be made on the extinction of licences to sell intoxicants. The term

  1. “According to all the texts he returned to Venice in 1295 or, as is more probable, in 1296.”—Yule.