James Laney

From Kook Science

James Laney
Born May 2, 1822(1822-05-02)[1]
Scotland, U.K.
Died 29 August 1915 (93)
Medina, Hennepin Co., Minnesota
Burial Crystal Lake Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minn.
Spouse(s) Abigail Jane Brown (m. 1846)

James Laney[i] (May 2, 1822 - August 29, 1915) was a Scots-born stonemason who, according to a 1915 press report syndicated in several U.S. newspapers at the time of his death, was a known tinkerer in perpetual motion, having spent seventy years in the pursuit to no avail, ultimately destroying all of his work before his death.

Press Coverage

  • "Death Ends Quest of New Power.", Hartford Republican (Hartford, KY): 2, 19 Nov. 1915,, "Recently when James Laney, ninety-three years old, was laid to rest in Crystal Lake cemetery at Minneapolis, a seventy-year quest for the secret of 'perpetual motion' came to a fruitless end. So close did he think himself to the secret at times that he trembled with expectancy. For seventy years, despite his disappointments, his mind aflame with ambition, Laney worked, thinking, experimenting. Meanwhile this man, a Scotchman by birth and a stonemason by trade, whose only relaxation was reading the works of Bacon, Shakespeare, Coleridge, Wordsworth, smashed and destroyed contrivance after contrivance when it failed. Then with intensified energy he concentrated on a new idea. 'It almost worked.' These three words tell the life story of a man gifted in some ways beyond his fellow men. John Laney wanted his name to go down in history, but always when he fancied he was at the very edge of accomplishment, it was only to find the something missing in a contrivance that 'almost worked.' [...] But before he died John Laney destroyed all charts or mechanical contrivances he had made in search for perpetual motion. One day he said to his daughter: 'Perpetual motion will yet be found. There is no doubt of it. When it is found the world will be astounded, not alone by the stupendous changes that it will bring in all industrial life, but by the simplicity of it. Millions will wonder why no one ever thought of it before.'" 


  1. The syndicated article regarding Laney's pursuit of perpetual motion initially gives his first name as James, and thereafter as John. Death and census records give his name as James Laney.