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When Did Metal Detectors First Sweep the Nation?

Discover the Fascinating History of Metal Detectors: From Early Inventions to Modern-Day Technology

When Did Metal Detectors First Sweep the Nation?

When Were Metal Detectors Invented?

Metal detectors have become a ubiquitous tool for treasure hunters, security personnel, and archaeologists. However, these machines have a complex and intricate history, dating back to the 19th century. Here's a brief rundown on the history of metal detectors.

Early Precursors to Modern Metal Detectors

The first metal detectors were not electronic machines as we know them today. They were simple devices designed to find metallic objects. In the early 1800s, scientists experimented with the magnetic field, and by 1830, Gauss invented the first instrument capable of measuring the Earth's magnetic field. This inspired inventors to design machines to locate metal objects underground. During the 1840s, Alexander Bain and Gustav Kirchhoff invented electromagnetic detection to locate metallic mineral ores. This technology was used to detect iron objects and was used in scientific fields, such as locating metal in the human body or detecting meteorites.

First Functional Metal Detectors

The first functional metal detector was invented in the 1920s by an American inventor named Gerhard Fisher. The machine, called the Metalloscope, was initially used for locating unexploded bombs in Europe after World War I. It worked by sending a magnetic pulse into the ground and then listening for the echoes returned by metallic objects. Fisher later improved on the design and eventually started the Fisher Research Laboratory company in 1931. His new version of the Metalloscope was significantly more effective than its predecessor and could locate metal objects buried up to eight feet below ground.

Development and Advancements in Metal Detectors

Since Fisher's invention, metal detectors have undergone significant advancements and developments. In the 1930s, the first portable metal detector was created, which revolutionized the field of archaeology. This made it easier for archaeologists to find and excavate hidden artifacts. During World War II, metal detectors were used for landmine detection, and in the 1950s, companies began using them for security purposes. The metal detectors used during these periods were mainly large and bulky, making them difficult to maneuver.

In the 1960s and 1970s, metal detectors underwent massive changes. Companies like Whites Electronics and Garrett Electronics began manufacturing and selling handheld metal detectors to the public. Metal detectors became smaller, more portable, and more sensitive. As the technology improved, metal detectors became more affordable, allowing for the average person to become a treasure hunter.

The Modern Metal Detector

Todays metal detectors have made significant leaps in technology. They can now distinguish between different metals, allowing users to choose the type of material they want to detect. They can also correct for ground mineralization, making it easier to locate objects in highly mineralized soil. Modern metal detectors have also become much more accessible, with a wide range of sizes and prices, making it possible for anyone to participate in the hobby of metal detecting.


Metal detectors may seem like relatively new devices. But their history is significant, and they have come a long way since their primary use as a tool for scientific research. Today, metal detectors are used for archaeological investigations, landmine detection, and treasure hunting, among other essential activities. Whether searching for sunken treasure, lost artifacts, or hidden caches, modern metal detectors can be a valuable tool for unlocking the secrets of many mysteries.

While metal detectors were being developed, another invention was changing the world - see how video recording has evolved over time.

When Were Metal Detectors Invented?

Metal detectors have been around for a long time, but their evolution may surprise those who think that they are a recent innovation. Metal detectors were first invented in the late 1800s, with significant advancements in the technology taking place throughout the 1900s.

More specifically, the first patented metal detector was developed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1881. Bell's invention was intended to help locate bullets in President James Garfield's body after he was assassinated. Unfortunately, the metal detector did not work as effectively as Bell had hoped. However, Bell's invention was the foundation for the development of modern metal detectors.

Applications of Metal Detectors

Archaeological Applications

Modern-day metal detectors are commonly used to find buried artifacts and coins in archaeological digs. Since the 1930s, metal detectors have played a significant role in locating ancient objects that have been buried deep beneath the earth for centuries. These discoveries have been valuable in understanding the history and culture of civilizations that existed many years ago. Metal detectors are used in archaeological excavations to uncover hidden treasures that may have been missed by previous explorers.

Treasure Hunting and Hobbies

Many hobbyists have realized the fun and excitement that comes with metal detecting. People have been using metal detectors since the 1960s to search for lost items, including coins, jewelry, and other treasures. Metal detectors come in different sizes and shapes, and enthusiasts can take them to beaches, parks, and other public spaces to hunt for valuable items.

Apart from the fun aspect of treasure hunting, some hobbyists make significant profit with their finds, with some treating metal detecting as a full-time job. In 2012, a man from England found a unique Viking silver hoard worth over 1 million pounds, while a couple from California discovered over 10 million dollars' worth of buried coins.

Security and Law Enforcement

Metal detectors have important applications in security. For instance, they are installed in airports to screen for weapons and explosives. The technology used in these machines can detect metallic objects that may pose a threat, ensuring that passengers are safe when traveling.

Law enforcement agencies also use metal detectors as a tool to locate and recover evidence from crime scenes. With this technology, detectives can search for bullets, weapon fragments, and other metallic evidence that may be important in solving a crime. Additionally, metal detectors help to minimize harm or accidents when searching an area for items that may be dangerous.


Metal detectors are increasingly becoming an important tool in the modern world. From finding ancient artifacts to detecting weapons, this technology has a wide range of applications. The evolution of metal detectors from the late 1800s to the present has revolutionized various sectors, including archeology, hobby, security, and law enforcement.

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