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The Truth about Johann Bessler

First we must look at the accusation that he was a criminal. History has recorded that his maid swore on oath that he had turned the machine from an adjoining room. She claimed that a thin bar of barbed metal was secreted inside one of the supports of the wheel, and this acted on the bearings of the machine. This secret mechanism was operated from Besslerís bedroom, by a small handle. This piece of evidence has been quoted time after time as the most damning piece of evidence against Bessler, never mind the fact that perpetual motion is impossible.

This was the first thing that caught my eye at the age of fifteen! The wheel in question, measured nearly twelve feet in diameter, eighteen inches in thickness, and weighed approximately seven hundred pounds, and yet we are asked to believe that this mighty construction which turned on bearings of just three-quarters of an inch, was driven - through those bearings -with sufficient force to turn it at twenty-six revolutions per minute, accelerating to that speed within three turns! Not only that, it lifted a weight of seventy pounds from the castle yard to the roof, or alternatively turned an archimedes screw for pumping water. As if that was not enough, the machine was locked into a sealed and guarded room and allowed to turn non-stop for fifty-four days, nearly two months!

The maid goes on to say that during this extended eight week test the machine was operated by just four people and that they did this twenty-four hours a day! This means that each person had to turn the wheel for at least six hours a day without stopping, and one of them was a nine year-old girl!

I knew at the time, that the maid was wrong about the mechanism, it simply wasnít possible to make the wheel move by applying force through the bearings, but to believe that anyone would be able to operate a mechanism for six hours a day for two months defies common-sense. Further investigation revealed that she was part of a conspiracy involving the people that the inventor constantly referred to as his Ďenemiesí. We know who they were and they had good reasons for trying to discredit Bessler. The maidís so-called affidavit, on closer examination is clearly a record of a question and answer session. It is easy to tell, reading between the lines, that she was being closely questioned by an official, following accusations that she made. The answers are responses to questions, and it is clear that she made some of them up as she went along. But this affidavit has been produced time after time as evidence of Besslerís duplicity, and yet he was released without charge.

Another point in Besslerís favour concerned his patron Karl, the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. He took the inventor under his wing and allowed him to construct a new machine and live as a guest at his castle. This man insisted that before he accept Bessler and his machine, he must be allowed to ascertain for himself whether the machine was genuine. Bessler allowed him access to the machine and he satisfied himself as to the validity of the inventorís claims. He is quoted several times as saying that the machine was so simple that he was surprised that no one had ever discovered the secret before.

Now obviously there are only three possibilities to consider in Karlís case:

1) He was party to a criminal deception, in which case we might as well accept that Bessler was a fake;

2) He was taken in by a plausible rogue, and the same applies, or

3) The machine was genuine.

I have studied the history of the man, Karl, and the evidence is presented in the book, and it quickly became clear that the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, was most warmly regarded by all the top scientists of the day, men such as Gottfried Leibniz and Christian Wolff chose to acknowledge his merit in numerous letters. Karl was a sponsor of Denis Papin prior to Besslerís arrival, and it was only the formerís decision to move to England to be close to the Royal Society that ended their partnership in some of the most epoch-making steam experiments ever undertaken. France which was Papinís country of origin still claim that he invented the steam engine. The Landgrave was also famous for his collection of the latest scientific instruments with all of which he was thoroughly familiar.

But Karl was also well-regarded by all the leading powers in Northern Europe as a steadfast ally in the many wars which took place at this time. He was in constant conference with the Kings of England, Poland, Prussia and Sweden and any hint that he might have been party to a fraud, which could provide little advantage to him, or that he had been taken in by it, would have affected his high-standing among these powerful men. He was in constant demand as an ďhonest brokerĒ at the highest levels including attempting a settlement between Peter the Great of Russia and King Charles XII of Sweden. There is no doubt of his honesty.

When Karl came to power his country was poor, but he worked hard, encouraged inward investment, provided a haven for the expelled Hueguenots, developed industry and when he could afford it, engaged in many large building projects including the digging of a canal to open up the inland port of Karlshafen, and as a result, when he died he left his country in excellent financial health. In summary then Karl was honest, scientifically and practically knowledgeable, and nobodyís fool.
Karl was aware of the maidís accusations and merely commented that he took no notice because he knew that the machine was genuine. He never, in the following eighteen years up to his death, revealed the secret because he had pledged to keep it secret until the inventor had received just payment for his invention. It is simply impossible to concede that Karl would have connived in a fraud that could be of no benefit to him either in reputation, power or money. Equally it is extremely unlikely that he was taken in by a fraudulent mechanism. There is so much evidence of his intellectual ability that to suggest that gullibility was a trait of the Landgraveís is as crass as believing that he would even consider taking part in a fraud that would for ever ruin his hard-won standing among the European Monarchy.

Copyright © 2011 John Collins.