R. J. Jones

From Kook Science

R. J. Jones
R. J. Jones - ill. portrait (1891).jpg

R. J. Jones was an American inventor who, while briefly resident at Mexico, Audrain Co., Missouri, drew regional press attention for his claims to have discovered the secret of perpetual motion, leveraging this into short-lived financial support to build a working model. The enterprise quickly proved a failure and his backers backed out, leaving Jones to abandon his work and reputedly resituate himself to St. Louis, Missouri.

Press Coverage

  • "PERPETUAL MOTION. A Missouri Inventor Gives to the World a New Motor.", Columbus Daily Herald (Columbus, NB): 1, 23 Jan. 1891, 
  • "Mexico's Inventor", Mexico Weekly Ledger (Mexico, MO): 1, 29 Jan. 1891,, "[From the St. Louis Chronicle.] R. J. Jones, of Mexico, Mo., is the latest Keeley. He outdoes Pennington's air ship by a perpetual motion machine, operated by compressed air or water. He claims he has got it sure, and there will be few steam engines running in a year." 
  • "PERPETUAL MOTION Has Been Sought by Many but Never Found — Jones, of This City, is Sure He Has It.", Mexico Weekly Ledger (Mexico, MO): 2, 29 Jan. 1891, 
  • "AT LAST HE HAS COME. The Man the World Has Been Waiting For.", Nashville Banner (Nashville, TN): 7, 5 Feb. 1891, 
  • "A FATAL IGNIS FATUUS. Men Becoming Insane Every Day Over Perpetual Motion. JONES, OF THIS CITY, LIKELY TO ASSUME GENERALSHIP OF THE VAST ARMY OF THOSE GONE AND ALL YET TO COME. Faith in the 'Machine' Lost by All Except the Inventor — Brooding Over His Troubles — His Financial Backer Deserts Him — A Crude and Worthless Model.", Mexico Weekly Ledger (Mexico, MO): 1, 19 Mar. 1891, 

    IAGO — I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth than it should do offence to Michael Cassio; yet, I persuade myself to speak the truth. — Shakspeare's Othello.

    The Ledger was the first to proclaim to the world the startling intelligence that perpetual motion had at last been mastered. An overzealous inventor and an enthusiastic reporter were the combination that produced the spark that kindled the flame. R. J. Jones' reputed perpetual motion machine is said to be a flat failure and so the world is still as it always has been and as the laws of nature prove that it always must be — without perpetual motion. The ignis fatuus that began haunting men's visions centuries ago has not yet paled in the light of reason. No other fallacy has been so popular or has so long withstood the light of reason as has perpetual motion. Alchemy and the transmutation of metals, which for a season occupied the minds of men, passed away to return no more. The philosopher’s stone and the elixir vitae were believed in and earnestly sought after by the really scientific men of a few generations, but the search was finally given up. The phantom of perpetual motion, however, will not down, but beckons men on and on, leading them all to the same inevitable result — total failure. Men are as far from the discovery of the secret to-day as they were seven centuries ago, and they will get no nearer to it until a weight placed upon the ground can lift itself up.

    What is perpetual motion? A perpetual motion machine is one to be moved by a power furnished by the machine itself and not from any source outside of it. A mill or a clock run by the incessant rise and fall of the tide is not perpetual motion. Neither is a machine that runs by the power of terrestrial or other magnetism, or of the wind, or of variations in the weight of the atmosphere, or by electricity coming from outside of the machine, by the force of heat coming from the sun. A wheel that could always of itself keep more weight at one side than at the other and thus turn so long as its materials lasted would be perpetual motion, and such has been the form of most of the machines invented for the purpose and on the same principle is Mr. Jones' invention, but none of them have yet withstood the searching knowledge of science. There are to-day as many minds afflicted with this mild form of insanity as there have been at any time in the past. Every city, town and hamlet possesses its would-be inventor who is striving to achieve the end that is to startle the world. But it can’t be done. John L. Gouley, the inventor and philanthropist, worked on it for twenty years and died; Honecourt, a celebrated Flemish architect, left the drawing of a wheel that was to solve the problem; Arkwright, the noted English inventor, and even Sir Isaac Newton believed perpetual motion might be discovered. R. J. Jones, of this city, had it harnessed up and was ready to electrify the world and become the greatest of all men, living or dead; among the receivers of eighty-six English and twenty-three French patents taken out for perpetual motion between 1860 and 1869 were a colonial bishop, a professor of philosophy, one of languages, two barons, a Knight Templar, a doctor of medicine, two civil engineers, several mechanical engineers, etc., and a score of other "cranks" have presumed, by the aid of levers, balls rolling on an inclined plan, the wheel and axle, the Archimedean screw, the pump, the syphon, the hydrostatic bellows, the hydraulic ram, etc., to have discovered perpetual motion, yet not a solitary discovery is on record, not one absolutely ingenious scheme projected or one simple self-motive model accomplished.


    Everybody, it seems, has lost faith in Jones' machine except Jones. He clings to the belief that it will yet do all he claims for it. Work on the model is at a stand-still for the want of means to have the proper castings made at some foundry where it can be properly done. A well known mechanic pronounces the patterns so crude it will be an impossibility to make their counterparts in metal. Again, this same gentleman avers that the wheels that are to give the machine the motion to keep it running forever are wrongly constructed and it is his opinion that they will move neither backward nor forward. The financial backer of the concern, who at first signified a willingness to furnish the money to complete the model, after advancing $20 lost faith in the scheme and refused to further aid Jones. The model of the machine is still at Carberry’s iron foundry and Jones stays constantly with it. We are told that the inventor sits for hours at a time in deep, far-away study, with his head bowed between his hands, heedless of everything around him. Jones is at that stage where the climax is reached; he knows not whither to turn. He is looking for some good Samaritan to help him out of the difficulty. He needs financial aid. He is certain he has the machine, and is willing to share fame with anybody who will come to his rescue. With due consideration for Jones as an inventor, the LEDGER is fearful that he has tackled the wrong mchine, and timidly offers the suggestion that he forsake his jack-o’-lantern idea and turn his attention to sorghum mills and self-binders.

    Made no bones
    Of pronouncing inventors drones
    Who produced things as
       insignificant as
    Is Jones' notion;
    To create wide-spread commotion
    He is monkeying
       with something that
                                   His Devotion!
    Will finally end in
                —!! —!!!