There were several versions of the machine, which ranged in size from his first which was approximately three foot in diameter and about four inches deep, to his largest which measured over eleven feet in diameter and some eighteen inches in depth. They all took the form of a wheel mounted on a large axle. I have assessed the materials most likely to have been used in the largest one and have calculated its weight as being in the region of 700 pounds.
The first two wheels could only turn in one direction. They had to be locked or tied into position when not in use, as they spontaneously began to turn as soon as the lock was released. Following suggestions that his machine might be run by a clockwork mechanism, the inventor produced a new version which was capable of turning in either direction. This new capability was achieved at the sacrifice of speed and power. Whereas the early machines usually rotated at around 56 revs per minute, the later bi-directional wheels only achieved a speed of about half the earlier ones. The largest wheel, which was bi-directional, turned at a speed of 26 turns per minute. In addition the bi-directional wheels were stationary unless given a gentle push in one direction or another. After this they would gradually accelerate to their normal speed.
The inspections carried out on these machines were exhaustive and designed to catch the inventor out, if he was a fraud - and there were many test and examinations carried out over a period of some fifteen years and yet at no time was there ever discovered the slightest evidence of fraud.
All of the machines were frequently examined thoroughly from the outside. The bearings upon which the wheel turned were left open to examination. Translocation of the wheel was carried out. This involved running the machine on one set of bearings while those present were allowed to crawl over, under and around the machine as it ran. Then the machine was stopped, and with the aid of his brother, the wheel was physically lifted off the first set of bearings and carried several steps across the room to a second set. Prior to translocation the internal weights were removed as otherwise the wheel proved too heavy to lift. Once positioned on the second set of bearings the machine was set in motion again and was open to examination.
A long-duration test was carried out under the strictest of rules. The wheel was located in a large room in the castle of Hesse. The room was thoroughly examined, as were those adjacent to it. All doors and windows were checked and blocked off. The wheel was set in motion in the presence of many scientists and nobles. The room was locked and sealed with the prince's seal. An armed guard was placed outside the room twenty-four hours a day. The wheel was allowed to run uninterrupted for 54 days and upon opening the room, was found to be spinning as before. I say uninterrupted, but it was stopped and examined after three weeks to see if it could sustain the long test without wearing out. Upon a satisfactory examination it was restarted and left to run for the remainder of the time. The inventor requested a longer test but his prince declined saying that if eight weeks was insufficient, no length of time would do.
Other tests followed. The wheel was made to lift heavy loads, pump water, mould out shapes using stampers - but in all this time it never failed. The inventor acceded to any suggestions for tests as long as the internal design of the machine remained secret. Gottfried Leibniz, one of the foremost scientists of the day and certainly comparable with Sir Isaac Newton, remained convinced to his dying day that Johann Bessler told the truth.
Copyright © 2006 John Collins.