Patents for Unworkable Devices

The list of perpetual-motion seekers is not, as we see, confined to soldiers, sailors, saddlers, and smiths, but finds ardent admirers among a certain class of scholars troubled with "a little learning," or only just sufficient of it to "intoxicate the brain." —Henry Dircks, 1870.
Many persons think that you can't get a patent on an unworkable device. That's not true, as these examples show. This is only a small sampling of the inventive looniness of restless minds.

United States Patents

  • 1932. H. L. Worthington. 1,859,643 Magnetic Motor.
  • 1934. J. W. Poysa. 1,963,213. Magnetic Motor.
  • 1959. Norman L. Dean. 2,886,976. System for converting rotary motion into unidirectional motion.
  • 1965. E. Baumgartner. 3,194,008. Positive Buoyancy Prime Mover.
  • 1966. Dan K. McCoin. 3,292,365. Power conversion apparatus and method utilizing gravitational and buoyant forces.
  • 1971. E. Rutkove. 3,625,089. Gravity Wheel Apparatus.
  • 1976. David Diamond. 3,934,964. Gravity-Actuated Fluid Displacement Power Generator.
  • 1978. Robert L. Cook. 4,238,968. Device for conversion of centrifugal force to linear force and motion.
  • 1979. Howard R. Johnson. 4,151,431. Permanent Magnet Motor.
  • 1980. Leslie R. Hinchman and Robert B. Hinchman. 4,184,409. Hydraulic Engine.
  • Caldwell. 4,667,115. Energy machine generating hydraulic energy.
  • 1989. Howard R. Johnson. 4,877,983 Magnetic Force Generating Method and Apparatus.
  • 1988. Robert W. Willmouth. 4,818,232. Gravity and Power Driven Power Generators.
  • James Harvey. 5,335,561. Impulse converter.
  • 1995. Howard R. Johnson. 5,402,021. Magnetic Propulsion System.
  • Michael Tarnoposky. 5,921,133. System and method of energy conversion of gravitation into mechanical energy by means of a sequence of impulses of force.
  • 1999. Brad A. Forrest. 5,944,480. Buoyancy and Gravitation Motor. "...does not require an external power source, consume fuel or create a waste by-product."
  • Paul T. Baskis et al. 6,109,123. Rotational inertia motor.
  • 2002. James Woodward. 6,347,766. Method and apparatus for the generation of propulsive forces without the ejection of propellant. (Reactionless thruster.)
  • 2002 Thomas Bearden. 6,362,718. Motionless electromagnetic generator. (This device extracts "compressed energy" from the time domain in amount mc2. It draws energy from the longitudinal electromagnetic waves that fill the ocean of space-time".) (!)
  • 2003. Mikhail Tarnopolsky et al. 6,601,471. Main block of drop-power station.
  • 2003. Fabrio Pinto. 6,651,167. Method for energy extraction. Describes and engine cycle comprising several state changes allowing for net gain of energy from an underlying field.
  • 2004. Ralph E. Love. 6,694,844. Apparatus to recover energy through gravitational force.
  • 2004. Ernest Eun Ho Shin. 6,734,574. Buoyancy-driven electric power generator.
  • 2009. Paulo Emmanual De Abreu. 7,501,788. Quantum generator and related devices of energy production and conversion.

German Patents

  • 2000. Frank Walerij. DE19919022. A overbalanced chain running over two pulleys.

French Patents

  • 2001. Smeretchanski Mikhail. French patent #2,830,575. Patent text. A device for the production of mechanical energy..., using elements with variable volume and the force of Archimedes for its operation. A very old idea that appeared in the Journal of learned men for 1685, and was refuted by Bernoulli. It has been patented many times, for example, see British patent 1330 (1857) below, and David Diamond's 1976 patent above.

British Patents

Dirck's 1861 book, chapter XI, lists early British patents.

  • 1809 [No. 3226] William Pleasants of Abbey Street, Dublin, Bachelor of Arts. Self-mover using centrifugal effects on water.

  • 1814 [No. 3861] Henry Julius Winter of Dover, Kent, Confectioner. A method of giving effect to various operative processes." Overshot water wheel with pumps.

  • 1819 [No. 4364] Robert Copland of Liverpool, Merchant. Heavy liquid recirculation, using centrifugal force. [long description, picture]

  • 1823 [No. 4749] Robert Copland of Wilmington Square, Middlesex, Gentlemen. [He's moved, and is now a gentleman!] Liquids again, this time with pistons.

    George Linton (1821)
    British Patent 4632
    Dircks (1861) p. 436

  • 1821 [No. 4632] George Linton, of Gloucester Street, Middlesex, Mechanist. [The modified Arabian wheel, with ramp and balls, description and picture.]

  • 1825 [No. 5191] Edward Jordan, of Norwich, Engineer. Two large drawings and seven printed folio pages, describing an underwater buoyant engine.

  • 1827 [No. 5461] Sir William Congreve of Cecil Street, London, Baronet. "A New Motive Power." A belt of sponges over an inclined plane and passing through a water bath. Weights on top of the sponges squeeze out the water when they are out of the bath. A classic. Dircks (1861) p. 314-329 discusses this and other Congreve inventions.

  • 1832 [No. 6290] Pierre Nicolas Hainsselin of Duke Street, St. James's, Middlesex. "...A machine, the nature of which depends on the descent of an endless series of reservoirs filled with water, which water is raised to suitable elevation for the purpose, principally by the action of the machine itself." Picture in Dircks (1861) p. 438.

  • 1833 [No. 6510] Barthelemy Richard Comte de Predaval of Leicester Place, London, Engineer. Complicated mess of water, turning cylinder, drum, pistons, friction plates, springs, etc. It acts "by a joint power derived from the buoyancy of a body in fluids, and the weight of a body in vacuo." (A joint stock company was based on this patent.) Long description in Dircks (1861) pp. 420-427, with four drawings. A rotating drum is in a cylinder. Carefully machined "seals" divide the space between drum and cylinder into a left portion, filled with water, and the right portion in a vacuum. Buoyancy in the water half was expected to keep it turning. The inventor describes a simple experiment with a half-drum intended to demonstrate the ability of the buoyant force to turn the half-drum.

  • 1836 [No. 7216] Robert Copland of Wadsworth Road, Surrey, Esquire. [This guy moves around a lot, and changes his "title" every time.] More improvements on his engine (must not have been working very well). Now he has a beam and cylinders "but differently worked, without any appearance of being self-moving." Apparently the "reworking" resulted in a machine that has no appearance of being perpetual motion.

  • 1839 [No. 8312] Jacob Brazill of Deptford, Kent, Governor of Trinity Ground. Bellows and fan driving drum, which in turn drives the bellows. [The dog chasing its tail principle again.] Picture, Dircks (1861) p. 443.

  • 1843 [No. 9419] William Henry Stuckey of St. Petersburg, Esquire. Pneumatic engine, shifting weights, air communicated by tubes. Picture, Dircks (1861) p. 444).

  • 1845 [No 10,711] William Willcocks Sleigh of Chiswick, Middlesex, Doctor of Medicine and Surgeon. Pictures, Dircks (1861) p. 446. "A hydro-pneumatic apparatus for producing motive power." Uses "application of hydrostatic pressure in a chamber by means of apparatus and in such a manner as to reduce the effect of the hydrostatic pressure in the said chamber." [How's that again?]

  • 1846 [No. 11,452] William Eaton of Newington, Surrey, Engineer. Improvements in motive power, using a hydraulic press.

  • 1848 [No. 12,293] Joseph Eugene Asaert of Lille, France, Machinist. Two chains and descending weights. Nice picture in Dircks (1861) p. 452.

  • 1850 [No. 13,220] Arnaud Nicolas Freche of Paris, Merchant. Seven folio printed pages, the English text is likely a translation from another language. Several levers a gear, a wheel and a lifting weight. Small picture in Dircks (1861) p. 455. Several pages of murky description.

  • 1851 [No. 13,515] Gustav Adolph Buchholz of Norfolk Street, London, Civil Engineer. Eleven folio pages, with 17 sheets of drawings, containing 39 figures. Mechanical system.

  • 1852 [No. 283] Thomas Greaves of Manchester, Veterinary Surgeon. Mechanical, with beam, pulley and chains. Modest claim: "...this machine will dispense entirely and altogether with either steam power or manual labor." [We are still waiting.]

  • 1853 [No. 809] William Willcocks Sleigh of London, Physician and Surgeon. "The counteracting re-acting motive power engine." [Great name!] Another water machine with pump and rotary chambers. Another inventor who moves around a lot, or has two places of residence.

  • 1855 [No. 2205] Thomas Greaves is still tinkering with his machine.

  • 1852 [No. 410] Lot Faulkner of Cheadle, Chester, Machinist. A mechanical device to increase motive power.

  • 1852 [No. 706] Ernst Luedeke of Bedford Street, London. "I intend, by the use of a pendulum, double wheel, and springs, to produce vibration, kept up by the concurrent action of the pendulum."

  • 1852 [No. 887] Thomas Wood of the Glue Works, Hunslet, Leeds, Millwright. [Working in the Glue Works helps Mr. Wood stick to his work.] Patent has a good drawing (Dircks doesn't show it) of wheel whose periphery presses on a fluid, but complicated by weights, levers and gearing.

  • 1852 [No. 921] George Fitt of Parsonage House, Chalk, near Gravesend. Uses inclined plane and law of lever and machinery he claims to multiply mechanical force without an ultimate loss of speed. Power can be obtained "more than sufficient for any purpose yet known, or that ever will be known, where power is required."

  • 1852 [No 1163] A. V. Newton of Chancery Lane, London, Patent Agent. Mechanical. Wheels, rods, pulleys, lever, to drive a carriage or machine. Eight and one half folio pages, with two large sheets of drawings.

  • 1852 [No. 1189] Benjamin Glorney of Mardlyke Mills, near Dublin, Manufacturer. His provisional specification which, "if it has no other merit, has that of brevity." A carriage traverses backwards and forwards along a railway, in an oscillating motion, being mounted on a pivot, causing the carriage to be driven by "a peculiar arrangement of gearing [which] must depend upon circumstances, and should, in a great measure, be left to the discrimination of a competent engineer." [Translation: I couldn't make it work, but maybe a competent engineer might.]

  • 1853 [No. 118] Auguste E. L. Bellford of Castle Street, London, Patent Agent. Pumps, water and air, pipes and cisterns, so efficient "that once in movement, the machine will feel it, and will not require any auxiliary motive power." Patent not completed and is open to the public. [If anyone wants it.]

  • 1854 [No. 174] Adderley Willcocks Sleigh, Knight of the Most Noble and Ancient Order of the Tower and Sword, M.R.H.S., Captain Royal Services of Portugal and Spain, late R.N., of No. 1, Weymouth Street, Portland Place, London, Middlesex. An elaborate mechanical device described in six folio pages and two large and detailed pen and ink hand sketches.

  • 1854 [No. 557] John Aitken of Longsight, Manchester, Gentleman. Provisional description as a gift to the public. Pulleys, weights, guides and falling balls, alleging ball weights on one side are lessened by their momentum, due to differences in velocity.

  • 1854 [No. 1360] James W. Shaw of Birmingham, Merchant. Communicated from Don Manual Maria José Trinidad Miciano y. Contillo, of Cadiz, Spain. "Improvements in apparatus or machinery for producing motive power." Shifting radial arms with weights, using gravity alone.

  • 1854 [No. 1744] Plato Oulton of Dublin, Gentleman. "Improvements in obtaining motive power." Lead balls used "in place of water" to drive two or more main wheels, moving the balls with a "Peculiar arrangement of worm shafts." Wheels have buckets, driving by the weight of the balls. A worm shaft driven by the wheels raises the balls back to the top. 3 1/2 folio pages of print and a large drawing.

  • 1854 [No. 2129] Frederick Samson Thomas of 17 Corhill, London. Provisional protection expired after six months and invention is now given to the public. Overbalanced wheel with chambers containing shifting weights, rollers, or fluids.

  • 1854 [No. 2589] George Hale of Tavistock Street, London, Boot and Shoe Maker. Improvements on an old invention. Weighted jointed levers to cause greater lever arms on one side of a wheel. Sound familiar? 1854 had a bumper crop of kooky devices patented.

  • 1855 [No. 238] Jacques Roux Delguey Malavas of Monthrison, France, Gentleman. Levers and discs. Four and a half folio plates and one large drawing.

  • 1855 [No. 942] George Augustus Huddart of Brynkir, Caernarvon. A water wheel with a chain of buckets, operated "by the discharge of the water raised." [Ho, hum!]

  • 1855 [No. 2304] Robert Benton of Birmingham, Engineer, Surveyor and land Agent. Independent levers operating on an eccentric.

  • 1855 [No. 2373] Henry Weber of Zurich, Switzerland, Mechanician. Half-cylinder, weight, lever and drums or friction rollers.

  • 1855 [No. 2667] Michel Pierre Gilardeau of Paris, and 4, South Street, Finsbury, London. Liquid compressing air into two parallel pumps, and shifting weights.

  • 1856 [No. 463] David Jones of Ragland, Monmouth, Civil Engineer. A hydro-pneumatic device with a vibrating level causing alternate opening and closing of cocks.

  • 1856 [No. 1158] William Smith, Adelphi, London. (A communication from Alexandre Herault, of Angers, France.) Siphon lifts water to a higher level. [Hardly a new idea.] Two folio pages and a full drawing.

  • 1856 [No. 1345] Duncan Lang of Greenock, Scotland, Engineer. "Improvements in obtaining and applying motive power." Uses compressed air.

  • 1856 [No. 1611] General Henri Dembinski of Paris. " produce a continual motion reproductive of itself, by two wheels being connected by means of gearing or endless chains or ropes, the motion being produced either by weight or elasticity, the latter obtained by air, gas, compressed water, or any compressible fluid.

  • 1856 [No. 2164] Robert and Edward Lavender of London. Raising water in cylinders with hydraulic bellows.

  • 1856 [No. 2234] Antoine Jean Baptiste Lespinasse of Toulouse, France, Engineer. A siphon directs water to a wheel that works a set of pumps to raise the water back into the reservoir. [Not another one! Why bother with the siphon?]

  • 1856 [No. 2455] Robert George Barrow, of Poplar, London, Engineer. "A self-maintaining motive power obtained from water, air, or any other fluid or liquid." Uses double-acting force-pump to compress the fluid.

  • 1856 [No. 2873] Aime Lecocq of France, Contractor. "Improvements in hydraulic engines." Wheel with buckets, and a siphon to recycle the water.

  • 1857 [No. 958] Bartholemeo Predavalle of Bloomsbury, London, Civil Engineer. "A new motive engine." Liquids. Capillary tubes.

  • 1858 [No. 2563] Bartholemmeo Predavalle of Hart Street, Middlesex, Civil Engineer. "Improvements in producing or obtaining motive power." [Why do inventors move around so much? Changed spelling of name?] Uses "the peculiar property of fluids observable in the 'hydrostatic paradox'."

  • 1859 [No. 2851] Bartholommeo Predavalle of Bloomsbury Street, London, Civil Engineer. Provisional patent for a device with fluid in a vertical column "alternately changing its action on the beam of a balance."

  • 1857 [No. 1108] Charles Barlow of Chancery Lane, London, Patent Agent. Communication from Joesph Comandeur of Lyons, France, Gentleman. "A mechanical apparatus for regenerating the impulsive force of any motive power." Heavy iron balls moving around tilted helical spirals wound round cylinders of different diameters. Drawing in Dircks (1861) p. 476.

    The bucket brigade engine
    Br. Patent No. 1330.
    Dircks (1861) p. 478

  • 1857 [No. 1330] Peter Armand le Comte de Fontainemoreau of London, Agent. Hydraulic motor. The "bucket brigade" arrangement of buckets or bellows on a belt over two pulleys, with everything below the top pulley immersed in a tank of water. Drawing from Dircks (1861) p. 478. (This idea recurs many times and was patented several times.) The patent describes it more clearly than the picture.

    The apparatus is composed of a number of hollow elastic buckets or bellows, partly immersed in water, made to pass over two pulleys. Each bellows is furnished with leaden weights at the bottom, which forces the air contained in the bellows on one side, to pass by means of connecting tubes into those buckets or bellows that are on the opposite side. The bellows are fitted to slotted links, and connected together so as to form an endless chain, which passes over the two pulleys.

  • 1857 [No. 2125] William Gilmour of Dalbeth, Scotland. "Improvements in obtaining motive power." Weights operating on levers

  • 1857 [No. 3199] William Middleship of South Grove, Mile End, London, of H. M. Customs. "Improved machinery or apparatus for obtaining motive power." Wheel with liquid chambers, keeping more water on one side. Or wheel could be immersed and chambers inflated. Tubes communicate fluid or air from one side of the wheel to the other. Could be an interesting forerunner of other similar ideas.

  • 1858 [No. 566] Marc Antoine François Mennons of Paris, and Finsbury, London. "Certian improvements in the production of motive power." A "peculiar pendulum" in contact with springs that cause it to "rebound and continue oscillating." Further assist from gravity or liquid in tubes at the bottom of the pendulum. Patent had six months protection.

  • 1858 [No. 1374] George Hale is still trying to make his levers on a shaft work. (See 1854 and 2589.)

  • 1858 [No. 1743] George Singleton Hill of Ryde Isle of Wight, Miller. Recirculation of water, using vacuum to raise water 32 feet high in a series of columns.

    Pierre Richard (engineer, Paris), 1858,
    British patent No. 1870.
    Dircks (1861), p. 482.

  • 1858 [No. 1870] Pierre Richard of Rue St. Jean, Paris, Engineer. A classic. The picture says it all. It's the "cups and balls" trick with lead balls. Note the brake to keep it from turning dangerously fast. Also note the several artistic impossibilities in the drawing, from Dircks (1861) p. 482.

  • 1858 [No. 1933] James Black of Edinburgh, Machine Maker. "An improved mode or means of obtaining, applying and transmitting motive power." Water wheel operating pumps. Small picture in Dircks (1861) p. 483.

  • 1858 [No. 1934] John Coates of Lower Shadwell, London, Engineer. "Improvements in apparatus or machinery for obtaining and applying motive power." Water, pistons.

  • 1858 [No. 2142] Peter Pickering of Danzig, Prussia, Landed Proprietor. "An atmospheric engine." Cylinders 18 feet long and 3 feet diameter driving a common shaft. Had to be primed by forcing the air in chambers to compress.

  • 1858 [No. 2530] Robert Wright of Manchester, Jeweller; and T. J. Mercer, of Coventry, Watch Manufacturer. "A new or improved motive power engine." "Our invention consists of an engine by which motive power is obtained by the use of compressed air, which said engine also effects the compression of the air, by the expansive power of which the motive power is obtained."

  • 1858 [No. 2708] Moses Starbuck of New York, America. "A static pressure engine." Provisional application. "...static pressure to produce a continuous movement..."

  • 1858 [No. 2853] Joseph Marie Roussel of Paris, Mechanician. "A new system and new apparatus, using air as a motive power." Provisional application.

  • 1859 [No. 754] Hugh Rigby of Salford, Manchester, Engineer. "Improvements in machinery or apparatus for obtaining motive power, applicable to hoists and all other purposes to which motive power can be applied." Water wheel with buckets, drives hydraulic pumps, "for the purpose of raising the water into one or more hydraulic rams" to raise water from the lower reservoir to the upper one. [Ho-hum!]

  • 1859 [No. 1057] James Randall Smith of Glasgow, Gentleman. "Improvements in obtaining motive power." An overbalanced wheel with chambers around its circumference, containing flexible bags. Heavy disks and tubes to transfer liquid to opposite side. Without a picture this is incomprehensible.

  • 1859 [No. 1413] Moses Haym Picciotto of Finsbury Circus, London, Merchant. "Improvements in apparatus for producing or obtaining motive power." Dircks (1861) has a picture on p. 490, but it doesn't help, nor does the text. It's hydraulic, with pipes and an oscillating lever.

  • 1859 [No. 2815] Prince Gustave Gennerich of Poland. "A new system of motive power applicable for working cranes and wheels." Heavy weight sliding on iron rod attached to the axis of a wheel, causing wheel to revolve. Dircks (1861) has a picture on p. 482, which doesn't help.

  • 1860 [No patent number given] William Willcocks Sleigh, of 49, Middleton Square, London, M.D. "The neutralific motive-power engine." (This fellow does invent great names and coin new words. Wonder how he has time to treat his patients.) Four drawings on two large sheets. From the prose description, these should be interesting. It's another liquid engine. To stop it, you had only to open the tap and let out the water. Dircks shows no picture, citing difficulties in reproducing the many details.

  • 1860 [No. 263] George Augustus Huddart and Joseph Durham Erkine Huddart, both of Brynkir Caernarvon, Gentlemen. Weighted pistons filled with air around the circumference of a wheel or around a chain over two pulleys. This is a classic idea that appears in various forms even today.

  • 1860 [No. 1458] Bartolommeo Predavalle of Bloomsbury, London, Civil Engineer. "A new mode of, and apparatus for producing and obtaining motive power." "...atmospheric pressure on a vertical column of liquid, communicating with a hollow piston suspended in a cylinder and surrounded by a vacuum."

  • 1860 [No. 272] George Redrup of Loughborough, Leicester, Brewer. "Improvements in the means of and apparatus for obtaining motive power whereby perpetual motion may be obtained." [No beating around the bush here.] From the description it sounds like a steam engine without the steam.

  • 1860 [No. 930] Thomas Edwards of Great Tindal Street Works, Birmingham, Engineer. "Improvements in obtaining motive power." A steam engine. "The essential feature of novelty in this engine is the total absence of all exhaust when in motion, the motive power being produced by the constant pressure of the medium or agent inside one half of the cylinder exerted against the revolving piston..."

Dirck's 1870 book lists even more British patents in chapter XI. Dircks indicates that some may not be perpetual motion, and I have not listed those here.

  • 1801 [No. 2535] William Parkes of Newington, Surrey, Professor of Philosophy. "A perpetual power that will give motion to all kinds of machinery...." Compressed air engine that powers a compressor, etc. etc.

  • 1834 [No. 6614] Philip Augustus De Chapeaurogue of London, Gentleman. "A Machine, Engine, or Apparatus for producing motive power." "A 'self-acting motive power,' or 'Voland Moteur Perpetual'..." No specification, though the patent was re-commenced in March 1835 [No. 6902].

  • 1858 [No. 1858] James Smith of Seaforth, Liverpool, and Sydney Arthur Chease, of Liverpool, gentlemen. "Improved arrangements for Obtaining and Applying Motive Power." A steam engine, with lengthy description and picture in Dircks (1870) pp. 210-215. It's hard to tell what its virtues are.

  • 1863 [No. 174] James Smith and Sydney Arthur Chease of Egremont, Chester. "A New Description of Motive-power Engine." Another steam engine.

  • 1863 [No. 1706] James Smith and Sydney Arthur Chease. "A New Description of Hydraulic Engine for Raising Water and other Fluids above their Common Level, the Fluids so Raised to be used as a Motive Power." Dircks (1870) gives diagram on p. 219.

  • 1865 [No. 791] James Smith and Sydney Arthur Chease. "An improved arrangement of valves and other appliances..." (see No. 1706).

  • 1860 [No. 24] Marc Antoine F. Mennons of Paris, communication from Louis Diodor Läserson, of Moscow, Russia. "Certain Improvements in the Production of Motive Power..." Air rising upward in water generates power to drive a wheel.

  • 1860 [No. 60] John Ambrose Coffey, of Finsbury, London, engineer. "Improvements in Obtaining and Applying Motive Power by Means of Ponderous Bodies." Uses gravity and pressure, a bucket-wheel similar to an overshot water-wheel, endless chain or band, cylinder with pistons, etc. etc. Dircks gives no picture. Darn!

  • 1860 [No. 79] Charles Thomas Boutet of London, mechanician, engineer. "A new Mover applicable to all Branches of Industry, and Designed to Replace the Steam, the Aero-hydraulic Mover."

  • 1861 [No. 1224] Thomas Charles Boutet, Chamberwell, London, civil engineer. "Improvements in Obtaining and Applying Motive Power by Aero-hydraulic Means. Uses Pascal's principle and the hydraulic paradox. [Wow! Both of them!] "Its speed may be increased to any extent without fear of fire, explosion, or any other danger." [You can't make that claim for a real steam engine.]

  • 1860 [No. 342] George Augustus Huddart of Brynkir, Caernarvon, gentleman. "Improvements in Apparatus for Obtaining Motive Power." Compressible air vessels around a wheel, with a weight attached to each air vessel, the whole thing immersed in liquid.

  • 1860 [No. 684] Johann Ernst Friedrich Lüdeke of Hanover, residing at Wolverhampton, Stafford, gentleman. "Improvements in Obtaining Motive Power by means of certain Fluid Bodies, and in the Apparatus connected therewith." At last, an original theory underlies this one. He observes that buoyant objects rise faster in a liquid when their area/volume ratio is increased, all else being equal. So he uses thin sheets of metal underwater.

  • 1860 [No. 1090] Johann Ernst Friedrich Lüdeke of Marke, Hanover. "Improvements in Motive-power Engines." [The continuing story...] He discovers that mercury is the best fluid to use for his device, so long as it doesn't amalgamate with the thin metal plates.

Top view.Side view.
Johann Ernst Friedrich Lüdeke (1864), Dircks (1870), p. 239

  • 1864 [No. 2648] Johann Ernst Friedrich Lüdeke of London, and Daniel Wilckens, of Union Square, Surrey. "Improvements in Motive Power by Capillary Attraction." You've got to admit this fellow is clever. This device uses two disks very close together but with axes making a slight angle. The space between them is very small on one side, causing liquid to be drawn up by capillary action, its weight then pulling that side of both wheels down. Dircks (1870) has two small figures, p. 239.

  • 1865 [No. 1874] Johann Ernst Friedrich Lüdeke of Islington, London. "Improvements in Motive Power by Capillary Attraction." Same idea, new picture. Dircks (1870), p. 241.

  • 1860 [No. 1493] Alfred Arthur of the Polygon, Southampton, civil engineer. "Obtaining and Applying Motive Power." Atmospheric and hydraulic pressure, two cylinders or tubes with water. Overshot wheel, valves, etc.

Rebour's Motor, 1860. English patent No. 1581

  • 1860 [No. 1581] Claude Joseph Napoléon Rebour of Paris, engineer. "A New Motive Power, so called Rebour's Motor". "The said motor in utilizing gravity is a new application of the laws of the descent of bodies..." Two cylindrical weights "of a power superior to that required" rest on two carriage wheels. "When these two solid wheels are on the line passing through their centre of gravity, and on that of the wheels upon which they rest, they remain stationary; but if they are removed from that line by the hand of man, and if their axis is made to rest upon any point animated with a continual motion ever reproduced at the same point, and, consequently, unable to afford a rigid support, a breaking out of the equilibrium will naturally ensue, and the two wheels will produce a motion opposite to this change of the centre of gravity."

    "This invention is adverse to all the ideas admitted up to this day, the learned still pretending that a weight whatever cannot produce an effect unless it operates a fall. But new ideas beget progress; and have not new ideas been brought to light these centuries past, and may not new ones again spring besides those admitted to this day? God's work is not at an end.

    [The creed of the dedicated perpetual motion seeker.]

  • 1860 [No. 2012] William Edward Gedge of Wellington Street, London; communicated by Louis Leygoine, of Limoges, France, geologist. "Improvements in Apparatus for Obtaining Motive Power, based upon the Hydrostatic Paradox." Apparatus with very high pressure and a means for destroying that pressure.

  • 1860 [No. 2838] George Chowen of Lew Down, Crediton, Devon. "Improvements in obtaining Motive Power by Hydraulic Means." Works in places remote from running streams or rivers. Water wheel drives a pump, but "economizes" the water to the water wheel, using it again and again.

  • Omitted some patents here.

  • 1861 [No. 1112] George Hayes of Elton, Huntingdon, millwright. "Improved Apparatus for Applying Motion Power." From the lengthy description we learn that the rightmost large gear has no fixed axle, but is held in place by the constraints of the top and bottom gears on the right. The topmost gear's axle (c) is on a pivoted arm (n) and has a hand crank (d) and extra disk weights (s, t) so that it bears down on the gear below it. This "completely floating" gear is supposed to have a "tendency" to roll down the slope of the lower gear, giving the entire gear train an extra power boost. The output is the lower left wheel, and the inventor assumes it will give greater power than one uses on the input crank (d). All other gears have fixed axes attached to the frame.

      George Hayes (millwright), 1861
      British patent No. 1112.
      Dircks (1870), p. 257.
      Construction set model of Hayes' device

    The inventor says that "the static pressure of a weight or weights applied to an axle of spindle is caused constantly to preponderate upon one and the same side of another axle, which is in gear by means of spur wheels with the axle or spindle to be turned, and has thus a constant tendency to assist the said last-named axle or shaft to turn in the direction required, whereby an additional power, in proportion to the weight used, is gained."

    The helpful arrows show the result when the crank is turned clockwise. What would happen if the machine were operated in reverse? This is one of the most original ideas in the perpetual motion literature. Too bad it's entirely ineffective.

    It's hard to resist thinking that this device is some clever engineer's deliberate joke, designed to challenge people to figure out why it won't work as claimed.

    Some may think the defect in this device is that "floating" gear that has no axle. They think it will simply roll or fall out of place. That's not necessarily so. This construction-set model has the floating gear constrained by guides (the chrome-plated strips) to remain in one plane, but is completely free to move in that plane. The upper lever may be lifted and that floating gear may be easily slid out and removed entirely. So long as one keeps load on the upper right gear (supplied here by a finger, but Hayes suggested weights on its axle), the floating gear remains in place, and the gear train may be rotated in either direction. The minimum angle between the axles of the floating gear and its neighbors must be chosen relative to the angle of the individual gear teeth. This is something they don't tell you in engineering mechanics courses, probably because such floating gears have no conceivable use. [Some reader will probably inform me of a practical use.]

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I welcome tips on interesting patents for unworkable devices. Send them to me at the address shown to the right.

Some have asked about whether there really was a patent for a device that proves the existence of God. I think they must mean the 1914 patent by Socrates Scholfeld for an Illustrative educational device to demonstrate the existence of God. This is just one of several patents for lecture aids for religious schools.

U. S. patents may be searched online at the U. S. Patent Office. It's sometimes slow and frustrating, though. A search for "perpetual motion" won't get you very many hits, for savvy patent lawyers know enough to avoid that term in a patent application. But once in a while a patent will declare that it is not perpetual motion. The examples may give you ideas for search words.

European and worldwide patents may be searched at the European Patent Office.

FreePatentsOnline has PDF files of patents and a useful search engine. This is one of the best websites for reading patents with the least hassle.

Patents are often discussed at Bob Shaver's Ramblings on Invention and Technology of all kinds.


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