In 1745, Knight discovered a process for creating strongly magnetized steel, which he used to develop a compass needle able to function with greater precision. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society the same year after presenting his findings to the Society. He was honoured in 1747 with the Copley Medal in recognition of his achievements and, by 1752, his technologically advanced compasses were adapted by the Royal Navy, with renowned London instrument craftsman, George Adams, engaged in their manufacture.
In 1756, Gowin Knight received an appointment as the first principal librarian of the British Museum. He died in London, three months before his 59th birthday.