Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Flights of Fancy - Or the right interpretation?

Over the years I've had a number of thoughts about Bessler's words and what he might have meant. Some of those I have published on my web sites (listed on the lower right). Some of it is speculative but nevertheless I didn't include anything I didn't seriously consider a valid proposal.

But there are other ideas that are more subjective and I won't publish them on my websites in case someone takes them as factual, but here on my blog I see no reason not to engage in what some might call flights of fancy. Therefore I shall post some comments on Bessler's words over the next few weeks. They are still valid interpretations but not certain.

I've no idea if this will generate any comments but this blog format is not ideal for discussion so although I shall read all comments with interest, I think that it will not be possible to respond to each one,  here.  I have considered opening a forum but I do not really have the time to run  it properly so I'll leave it to those who may want more discussion to take it elsewhere.  So, for my first example consider the words by Bessler.

"A great craftsman would be that man who can 'lightly' cause a heavy weight to fly upwards! Who can make a pound-weight rise as 4 ounces fall, or 4 pounds rise as 16 ounces fall. If he can sort that out, the motion will perpetuate itself. But if he can't, then his hard work shall be all in vain." - page.295 of my book "Perpetual Motion; An Ancient Mystery Solved?"

Or as Rainer on the besslerwheel forum wrote, more succinctly, "When 1 pound drops 1/4 , it will (swing,throw?) 4 pounds upwards by 4/4"

or as Stewart, also on the forum, says more precisely,"He will be called a great craftsman, who can easily/lightly throw a heavy thing high, and if one pound falls a quarter, it shoots four pounds four quarters high".

The gist of the comment seems to be that a one pound weight can lift a second one pound weight four times higher than the distance the first weight falls and the lift or thrust upwards is accomplished easily - or even that one pound could lift four pounds four time higher! These suggestions are, on the face of it, ludicrous. Obviously, Bessler cloaked his meaning in apparently meaningless nonsense and yet there is a sense to be obtained from it if we can, so here is my view on the matter.

One pound falls and four pounds rise - four plus one makes five. As has proved the case often, Bessler has hidden more than one layer of meaning in his clue and I think one layer of the phrase was intended to point us to the five mechanisms again.

Secondly, included in the comment is the emphasis on the second weight being lifted or thrown upwards easily. To me this means that if the weight can be lifted easily, it must mean that it is not lifted very high, just a 'kick' upwards. One way to do this is with a long lever with a weight at its end, doing the lifting.. 

Implicit in the comment is a corroboration of another of his clues which suggests that his weights worked in pairs, so that when the first weight in a pair fell, it moved its paired weight into a position from which the wheel was made to rotate. The other four mechanisms then revolved with the wheel and each rose at some point, so one pound falling made each of four pounds rise four times each.

The use of the word 'quarter' confused my translater and he adapted the word to the English system of weight, when actually I think Bessler meant that each lever-and-weight unit rotated a quarter of a turn.  However there is another possibility, and that is that the 'quarter' referred to, simply meant that the falling weight fell the same distance as the rising weight.  The word 'quarter' was used to throw us off the scent.  He might have said that each pound rose half way when the other pound fell half way. - or they rose and fell 15 degrees each.  The important clue was that both weights moved through the same distance.

Well that's my take on this particular comment by Bessler.  More to follow.

Copyright © 2011 John Collins


  1. John, I've tried to analyze Bessler's words and actions ;what could have been his psychological motivations for the things he wrote or did. He seems to have been at the very least, a bit eccentric. You would know more than anyone about this side of him, so I won't second guess your interpretations of his writing. What has always bothered me about his story is the end of it. The destruction of all the wheels, the abandonment of new wheel construction, the horizontal windmill that he supposedly fell from, the sponsorship with Karl that should have led to some sort of a deal through his connections, Karl taking whatever secret he had to his grave. It seems to add up to something more than just what appears on the face of it. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that aspect of Bessler the man.


  2. I think he was more than a little paranoid about someone stealing his secret, Doug, and did everything in his power to protect himself against accidental exposure, but this conflicted with his desire to show how ingenious he had been. He dropped obscure clues here there and everywhere, which he planned to point to once he had sold the secret, and he looked forward to enjoying his public's amazement and chagrin at not having been able to decipher them. Everything was done to demonstrate how clever he was. This suggests that he had very strong feelings of inadequacy and sought praise from others he deemed were of higher status than himself. He believed that everybody scorned him for his low birth, poor social abilities and lack of finesse.

    The wheels were destroyed always before he was about to move so it was probably a necessary safeguard against them being stolen during his move to a new address, but it was typical of his character to use the necessary destruction of his wheels to emphasise theatrically his laying of blame of having to move on, on someone else's shoulders.

    The abandonment of the new wheel construction I would put down to the fact that he suddenly had more money than he had ever had, and the stimulus which led him to research and build the wheel, was removed, temporarily. Karl gave him five years salary in advance when he left Kassel.

    He fell from the horizontal windmill he was building because he was trying to achieve an impossible feat given his age, health and state of poverty. Karl did not reveal the secret because he had sworn on oath not to do so before Bessler had benefited from the sale of the secret first.

    Yes he was certainly eccentric Doug, and I'm sure a psychiatrist would find a whole bunch of complexes in his character pulling him this way and that.


  3. Paranoia, delusions of persecution from his peers (Newton, no less!) conflicting with his delusions of grandeur to show how clever he was, social phobias, inability to accept the consequences of his actions, perhaps even some form of manic depression or bipolarism. He was, a troubled man.
    He puts 15 years of his life into the wheels (with no monetary stimulus or even the promise of any, just his passion to motivate him) and then Karl gave him 5 years salary in advance and he left Kassel. That's pretty generous of Karl, wouldn't you say? Could there have been an ulterior motive for Karl for the salary and for keeping his oath? And why wouldn't Bessler continue working on the thing that had consumed so much of his life already? Even if he could afford not to? It just doesn't make sense to me. To abandon what could have revolutionized science, and machinery in particular? For what, a giant windmill at his age? There are some odd angles to the story, if you think about it, and the delusions and other things he suffered from seem to magnify them.Very mysterious.


  4. Of course Bessler was a troubled man. While he was a highly talented individual worthy of honerary academic accreditations,he was the only single person that had something the whole world wanted.
    The trauma of persecusion from all those who were jealous of him was not helpful.
    Society resents him because he died with his secret which happened through an unfortunate accident. He died a broken man,rejected by people who would not help him with so much as a crust of bread.
    I still know that he was genuine and his pioneering example has led me to a point where I shall prove the wheel does work and the ultimate vindication of Bessler.

  5. Trevor, I'm not saying any of his peers were persecuting him per se; their understandable skepticism, not jealousy, of his invention had some apparent influence on his behavior.
    I think it's helpful to try to understand a person's actions, especially in this case, and see if it can shed any light on the story, that's all. Sometimes we learn things we'd rather not, but the truth will out.
    I still believe there's more to this story.
    He was rejected because he was asking for too much. And then, he offered his own head as ransom. Those aren't the actions of a rational man.
    Why didn't he trust anyone but Karl? Not even a close friend, or someone who could have apprenticed with him?

  6. It is all to do with the design, doug...a very unique design....not everyone gets it..one look or glance will give everything away...despite building and displaying a working model some people were still not convinced enough...that's what troubled bessler...you are right in saying that others skepticism had an effect on him...it was a real dilemma...no one could have been really trusted except a personality like Karl....and Karl too was shown the secret under oath...bessler even tried changing his name to change his luck...bessler suffered from many complexes...his destiny betrayed him...despite all this we can still conclude that he was genuine...the key to understanding bessler lies in realizing his wheel design..he needed money to overcome his shortcomings in other respects..tell me who will not go mad after putting so much effort as bessler and still not benefiting from it...there isn't much left to know from his story now...we just have to understand that a man's destiny plays a great role in shaping his life...bessler was very spiritual...not everything can be understood through science....

  7. I'm sorry Doug,..certain of his peers did persecute him,verbally and publically. I don't think he was asking too much in fact it should have been more when you consider having a wheel that would provide electricity for life.
    He only offered his head on a block in a desperate attempt to convince people how honest and genuine he was,knowing that it would never come to that,remember he had no colateral.
    He knew his wheel would never let them down.
    Talking about being let down,our electricity let us down for two hours this morning just as I was reading your post,how frustrating was that! It only convinces me even more to get my wheel finnished so that I can have free un-interrupted lights in future.

  8. "It should have been more when you consider having a wheel that would provide electricity for life."? The electric motor wasn't invented until 1821; I doubt anyone foresaw the wheel as a source of electrical power. Most people would have compromised on the asking price; less than half of what he was asking would have paid for the things he wanted to do with the money. I'll bet John Harrison didn't offer his head on the block if his sea clock failed to pinpoint a ship's location. Even if he had turned over the wheel for free, he would have been the toast of the entire European continent, if the wheel was genuine. This is his true dilemma: if it's genuine, he's set for life, he goes down in history the right way regardless of any amount he receives. Who in their right mind wouldn't take that deal? If it's not genuine, as was suspected, then he has nothing to lose, besides his reputation. So he can safely offer his head once he realizes no one is going to meet his demands.
    Bessler's "destiny", (which means a predetermined course of events) by the definition, couldn't betray him. If anything, his greed betrayed him. His destiny, if you believe that philosophy, was to do exactly what he did. You can try to put it on other peoples' shoulders as John said in his comments above, but ultimately the choices we make determine our destiny (unless our human rights are abused). That's the philosophy I adhere to.

    "A great craftsman would be that man who can 'lightly' cause a heavy weight to fly upwards!"

    I think I know what he meant by that.

  9. Okay Doug Touche,..Lets make sure we learn by his mistakes when the wheel turns!I do feel that who ever re-discovers the secret should be appropriately rewarded in proportion to the benefits to mankind.


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