Friday, 21 April 2017
Bessler's Evidence and his Critics.
There are three areas or shades of scepticism about Johannn Bessler's claims; there are those who follow the establishment line, that the scientific laws codified through more than 300 years, prove that such devices are impossible; then there are those who are willing to consider that Bessler's claims, based on the persuasive historical evidence, might be true and that perhaps there is a loop-hole in the physical laws which might permit a gravity-enabled wheel to spin continuously. Lastly there are those who were convinced either immediately or over a short period of time that Bessler's wheel was indeed possible, but who, after countless experimental designs have failed, have finally conceded that the establishment view is correct and they have given up on the project.
There is a small hard core of people who remain convinced that Bessler's wheel was genuine and that if they or someone can succeed in replicating it, it could provide a welcome addition to the sources of energy required today and in the future. Failure after failure does not dim our optimism and despite numerous setbacks we continue to design, experiment and consider, ruminate and conjecture on numberless hypothetical mechanical arrangements, perpetually seeking that speculative loop-hole in the man-made laws of physics.
The evidence in support of Bessler can be categorised in three ways too. Firstly the witness reports describing the tests that each wheel underwent. Each demonstration required a tougher test for each subsequent wheel, and they in turn emerged in a more convincing format, larger dimensions and capable of lifting heavier objects. All of these tests were suggested and designed by Gottfried Leibniz, to convince the sceptics that Bessler's wheel had a genuine potential even if it wasn't technically a perpetual motion machine. This caveat at the end of the previous senece, lends weight to his personal belief that what ever lay behind its motion, Johann Bessler was absolutely honest about his wheel.
The second category consists of Karl the Landgrave of Hesse Kassel, his personal opinion that the machine was genuine, based on his actual observation of the inner workings of the wheel - a condition of his patronage. There is no doubt about Karl's integrity and thus no chance of collusion in a fraud, between the two men. It must also be remembered that Karl was a knowledgeable amateur scientist himself. He financially supported a number of ongoing experiments including a Denis Papin's steam engine, and the establishment of an observatory and also sent his court engineer to England to obtain information on the Newcomen engine.
The last category is often ignored but for me it is at least equally persuasive of Bessler's sincerity. I refer to his autobiographical account of his search for the solution to perpetual motion and the public reaction to his declaration of success in such a controversial field. In 1715 he wrote a booklet called Apologia Poetica in which described in somewhat harrowing terms his upbringing, education and his ten year search for the secret of a gravity-enabled wheel. He then describes the moment when he gained success; followed by marriage to a former girlfriend. Up to that moment he was triumphant and full of optimism, but that mood didn't last. The men he continually referred to as his enemies, had hassled him publically from the start of his first announcement that he had built a perpetual motion machine. They published slanderous tracts claiming to know how the scam, as they saw it, was carried out. These offensive comments were easily dismissed by examining the demonstrations, but mud sticks and it wasn't until Karl the Landgrave granted Bessler his protection that the public accusations stopped.
It is absolutely clear from Bessler's writing in Apologia Poetica, that Bessler was desperate to prove these enemie's accusations were lies. His life was full of stress and he must have been in a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from these adverse and demanding circumstances.To us reading the words of all parties involved it is clear that Bessler felt humiliated, offended and desperate to clear his name, a requirement which should not have been necessary given Karl's verification and the demonstrations suggested by Leibniz. Nevertheless, although their criticism was muted while under Karl's protection, as soon as Bessler left Kassel to live in Karlshafen, they re-emerged with the same public complaints, this time trying to get Bessler arrested on a trumped up charge of fraud. This was dismissed immediately by Karl who knew the truth.
So is it any wonder that his language in Apologia Poetica was from time to time full of bitterness and bile, hatred for his enemies and frequent appeals to God to witness his appalling mistreatment?
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