Johann Bessler’s Gravity Wheel

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                The Legend

In 1712 Johann Bessler (aka ORFFYREUS) exhibited a machine which he claimed, drew its energy from gravity. Despite nearly twenty years of the most stringent tests, examinations and public trials, not the slightest sign  of deception was ever found. Bessler died 33 years later, in poverty, still maintaining that his machine was genuine and there was no convincing  evidence to the contrary.

He had a number of supporters as well as enemies, and among his champions  were some of the most respected men of the day. These men, included Gottfried  Leibniz and Christian Wolff, top scientists of the calibre of Newton.

Bessler wanted to sell his machine for the sum of £20,000, a fortune in those days, equivalent to well over a million Pounds today. Despite the apparent stupidity of asking such a large sum of money, it was not unique and in fact Bessler based the sum on the one offered by the British  Board of Longitude, which, at the same time, was offering £20,000 to the first person to discover a means of locating the exact position  of a ship at sea, longitudinally. John Harrison eventually won the money  although it took him and his son many years to get all of it from a reluctant British government.

Bessler failed to sell his machine, not for a lack of customers, but  because he refused to allow access to his secret until he had the money  in his possession. He offered his head to the axe man if he should be  found to have deceived his prospective clients. But his determination not to risk being cheated defeated all negotiations. He died in harrowing circumstances years later, building Europe's first horizontal windmill  to his own design of course. In mid-winter, starving, weak and in debt,  he fell to his death. The massive base of the mill still stands, decaying, weatherworn and utterly neglected, in a small town in Germany. (See the pictures to the right.)

This is one of Bessler's published diagrams. As you can see, the author gives little away.

The inventor later produced designs for other inventions which were clearly  all based on his amazing wheel - a submarine, an ever playing musical carillon and a non-stop fountain…..

During my research into his life I discovered that Bessler had left instructions for building his wheel hidden in code inside more than one of his papers.  Much of the code has been identified and some has been deciphered but the illusive secret remains hidden to date.

Copyright © 2006 John Collins.