Perpetual Motion/Patents

From Kook Science

May 1903.

Coverage of Perpetual Motion as it relates to patents issued and patents claimed, as well as the generally negative feeling of the patent office toward free energy applications.

Press Coverage

United States of America

U. S. Patent Office - Helena Independent (Helena, MT) - 1890-07-17, p. 6.jpg


  • "TWO SORTS OF CRANKS. Flying Machine Lunatics and Perpetual Motion Maniacs in Washington. How They Make Life a Burden to the Patent Office People. They Would Infringe on the Prerogative of the Creator — Some of Their Devices.", Helena Independent (Helena, Montana): 6, 17 July 1890 

    Washington, July 16. — The last inventor of a flying machine was found dead in his bed one day recently, at a fourth-rate hotel on Pennsylvania avenue. He died of a broken heart. All the little savings with which he came to Washington a few months ago had been spent in the construction of models that somehow would never quite work. His notion was not that of the ordinary experimenter in aeronautics, whose ambition is to fly high. On the contrary, he considered that for all useful purposes it was simply desirable to elevate and control his apparatus at a height of not more than ten feet above the ground, and thus to swim along over people's heads at such a rate of speed as his propelling equipment was able to give. Given a vacuum inclosed in an exhausted receiver, and it is bound to float in the air, if only the receiver itself is at once strong enough to resist the atmospheric pressure and not so heavy as to overcome the clement of buoyancy. In aluminium, which may now be bought for so little as $2 a pound by the ton, the inventor thought that a material light enough and strong, enough was to be found; no metal surpasses it in resisting power, and its specific gravity is a trifle less than that of common chalk. A cigar-shaped tank of aluminium thirty feet in length and strongly ribbed ought, when exhausted of air, to sustain itself and 400 pounds in addition, thus being capable of upholding a compact electric engine to work the fans of the propeller and at least one passenger. Such, at all events, was the inventor's idea, and one of the best-known patent lawyers in this city said yesterday that he was convinced it was practicable. The only doubt he had was as to the matter of speed; but, the problem of buoyancy once solved, that would soon follow. Certainly it was a mistake, he thought, to relegate flying by artifice to the same category of impossibilities with perpetual motion and like absurdities. No less an authority than the great Edison has declared that the thing will one day be accomplished, though not by ordinary balloons or imitation wings.

    Of all the cranks that make life a misery for the model-makers around the patent office here, the perpetual motion maniacs are the worst. They are the ones who are most apt to be afraid lest their inventions be stolen, and sometimes they go so far as to insist upon the mechanic's agreeing that their models shall be worked upon only when no other customers are about, precautions being taken to hide them at once if anybody comes into the shop. Even of the patent lawyers, whom they are obliged to consult, they are afraid, lest their ideas, representing as they do "gigantic fortunes," tempt the professional men to appropriate them. Occasionally they will not give the model-makers any clear description of what they want, by reason of the same dread. One of them tried to make a bargain recently for the construction of a model, but could not be induced to say anything more about it than that there was "pretty nigh as much work upon it as there would be on a mowing machine." The model-maker, to whom this man applied, says that in many years of experience of such perpetual motion fiends he has never known one of them to own up that his contrivance was a failure. The machine invariably wants only a little improvement to make it work.

    Perhaps the most extraordinary of the devices for perpetual motion turned out by this model-maker was the invention of a crank, who walked all the way from Georgia to Washington to procure his patent. The contrivance consisted of a tall frame work with four uprights, in which was to be swung back and forth the entire trunk of a large tree. When the butt end of the tree swinging struck a spring on one side the spring was set loose and threw the tree back toward the other side, where it struck by another spring, which in turn flung it back to the first spring, and so on. The only trouble with the thing, the inventor said, was that it would go so fast and was difficult to stop when once started. Of course, the perpetual motion once obtained in this way it was an easy matter to transform it into power for running mills or for any other purpose. The model made according to instructions would not work, but that was the model-maker's fault.

    Another machine for the same purpose was composed of 200 long sticks, each pivoted at the middle, and an equal number of rubber bands connecting them together. "It was simply necessary to start one stick revolving its pivot, the result being such a multiplication of energy by the action of this original force through the other rubber bands and sticks, which were supposed to act as levers, that the inventor was afraid lest some terrific accident might occur and so refrained from putting in as many sticks and levers as he might otherwise have done. Still another perpetual motion machine was a wheel, from equi-distant points on the periphery of which hung heavy balls on the ends of rods. The wheel, being started, revolving to the right, carried the balls dangling on the ends of the hanging rods up around its left-hand side to the topmost point of its circumference, when an automatic catch threw the rods out horizontally to the right, the heavy ball being thus cast over far out of the center of gravity of the wheel, which their weight pulled down on the right side; when each ball got to the bottom of the wheel it fell into the wheel's center of gravity once more and was carried up and around again. Given a succession of balls throwing themselves one after another out of the center of gravity of the wheel, and you ought to have perpetual motion. The reason you don't is the same that prevents you from lifting yourself up by your bootstraps. Yet another interesting perpetual motion model that he had made, the model-maker said, was a pivoted board on which a little car ran back and forth. When it reached one end of the board it loosened a spring, which tilted the board the other way, so that the car ran back to the end from which it had started, where it touched another spring, tilted the board the other way, was again sent back, and so on ad infinitum. One spring that winds another up while it runs down itself, and vice versa reciprocally, without ceasing, is another form of perpetual motion contrivance offered in many editions. Also an inclined plane, down which three cars ran while three are hoisted up to their starting point on an endless belt principle. Six cars running down ought certainly to be able to lift three others up, though they don't somehow; the inventor who finds out how to make them do so will earn his everlasting fortune.

    "One of the most plausible machines of this sort consists simply of a big wheel, pivoted on a point at the center, with a metal ball running around the periphery. According to all reason and common sense, that ball, once started, ought to go on forever. Model makers and patent agents are frequently violently abused by inventors for constructing unsuccessful models, or for venturing to doubt the value of original ideas. By the way, the latest thing in the inventive line to appear in Washington during the recent hot weather was a fan for an attachment to the steering piece of a bicycle, to revolve automatically and to keep the rider cool as he proceeds along the asphaltum streets on the flying wheel.

U. S. Patent Office - Daily Independent (Elko, NV) - 1891-07-10, p. 2.jpg


  • "PERPETUAL MOTION PATENTS. Why the Government Stopped Taking the Fees of the Cranks.", Daily Independent (Elko, Nevada): 2, 10 July 1891 

    The patent office has recently ceased to be a party to the fraud of perpetual motion. Until three years ago it was customary to take "first fees" (fifteen dollars) ftom the perpetual motion cranks as well as from all other would-be inventors. Then, in course of time, a letter was sent to the perpetual motion applicant telling him that his claim was based upon an irrational principle, and that he must furnish a working model. Of course, that was the end of the application. The model never came, and the fee remained in the treasury.

    About three years ago, says the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Principal Examiner William L. Aughinbaugh went to the commissioner and suggested that as rejection of the perpetual motion claim was inevitable, it would be fairer to refuse the first fees of such claimants and to send them a circular immediately upon the filing of their applications telling them that no consideration would be given their papers until a working model was filed. This course has been pursued ever since. But repeatedly the discoverer of perpetual motion has been very indignant at the rejection of his tendered fee. One way that has been adopted by the cranks to get around the new rule intended for their benefit is to drop the claim of perpetual motion and put in the drawings for a "motor." Notwithstanding the policy of the patent office to discourage the perpetual motion craze and to save time and money for people, at least two or three claims of this character are put in every month.

    Not long ago a Kansas man claimed to have set-up the perpetual motion machine, and to have it in operation at his home. He wrote to the patent office to know if the affidavit of Senator Plumb would be accepted instead of the working model as the basis for a patent. The examiner felt obliged to refuse. Sometimes. the perpetual motion inventor appears with a pocket full of bearings and connections which he asks the examiner to accept as evidence that he has solved the problem. But the examiner insists that he must see the perpetual motion before he grants the patent.

    Last summer a New York lawyer named Todd came all the way to Washington with parts of a machine, and had quite a controversy with the office because the patent was refused. He insisted that he had seen the machine in operation, that it was running day after day, and keeping a cider press going to boot. There was no deviating from the rule. The lawyer went back to New York, saying that he would produce the machine. He was not seen again until the centennial celebration, when he reminded the examiner of the case and told how he had been fooled. At the time of making application the lawyer really believed that his client had discovered the long-sought principle. But when he got back to New York and told that the patent had been refused the client confessed. The perpetual motion was no motion at all. Power was concealed in the cider press. It ran the press and the press made the perpetual motion machine go too. The inventor had been charging ten cents admission to see perpetual motion. He had fooled the public and his lawyer, and he hoped to slip through a claim.