Monday, 3 August 2015
Leibniz's advice to Bessler regarding the Tests.
I'm posting this because I think we have ignored the process which led to the design of the various tests applied to the wheel. As will be seen, a lot of thought went into working out what possible tests could be undertaken which would eliminate as much as possible any accusations of fraud.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was Germany's leading philosopher, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor and historian, and he visited Bessler to examine his wheel around the 9th September 1714 in Draschwitz, scene of the second wheel's examination.
He records that "he allowed me, sometime ago, to carry out some experiments with his machine. It ran continuously for two hours in my presence and demonstrated considerable power." Later he writes, "I advised him to arrange a test in which his machine would be run for several weeks with all possible precautions taken to exclude any suspicion of fraud."
I have mention this because we know that Leibniz was certain that Bessler's wheel was of value and should not be lost to the world. His advice to arrange a long running test was made during his visit and during the two hours I am sure that other suggestions were discussed. For instance, building two sets of supporting pillars complete with a pair of bearing on each set, so that during the examinations the bearings could be thoroughly inspected for signs of fraud, both before and after changing the wheels over to a second set.
A demonstration of the lifting power of he wheel would also have been suggested by simply hoisting a heavy weight from the yard to the roof. I also think the demonstration of an archimedes pump would have been discussed too, because mining was Leibniz's current research and anything which might be used to pump water from the many mines would have been a highly sought-after device.
The Draschwitz wheel measured 9 feet in diameter and turned at 50 RPM unloaded and its size might have been restricted by the ceiling height of the room, but I'm sure that Leibniz would have urged Bessler to build the biggest wheel he could, to generate the most power and that would have necessitated seeking the patronage of a prince such as Karl the Landgrave of Hesse-kassel or his cousin Moritz-Wilhelm, Duke of Zeitz, who had already viewed the machine. They lived in castles with large rooms which would easily accommodate a larger wheel.
There was one more thing that Leibniz suggested; was there any way that Bessler might design the wheel to turn in either direction? Such a feature would surely crush any accusations of fraud. It was this that occupied Bessler's time after the Draschwitz wheel was destroyed. As we know he succeeded but even that surprising ability did not convince everyone.
Finally, the ultimate requirement would be to try to obtain the word of a trusted senior member of the ruling elite. This would require Bessler to drop his obstinate determination to keep the secret of his wheel hidden from everyone and yet this should have answered all criticisms if he could find the will to do it. In the end he agreed to let Karl the Landgrave into his secret and as history has shown Karl was regarded as a man of tremendous integrity, as incapable of breaking his word as he was of taking part in a fraud, with or without benefit to him of his realm. Yet even this was insufficient!
One last thing; I mentioned the archimedes pump and certainly that was described on more than one occasion but it is not mentioned as part of the official examinations and the reason is this. Arranging a large tank of water with the end of the pump submerged was quite achievable, but the archimedes pump is an inefficient device and the loss of water due to leakage would have required a constant procession of people with buckets to keep the tank filled sufficiently and there would have been a lot of water dropped around the device causing the floor to be wet and with so many people present would have led to water being spread to other areas outside the machine room simply by the passage of many feet! There was enough damp in building of the era without adding to it.
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