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The history of perpetual motion machines dates back to the Middle Ages. For millennia, it was not clear whether perpetual motion devices were possible or not, but the development of modern theories of thermodynamics has indicated that they are impossible. Despite this, many attempts have been made to construct such machines, continuing into modern times. Modern designers and proponents often use other terms, such as "overunity", to describe their inventions.
two types of perpetual motion machines:
Pre-19th century 
The "magic wheel", a wheel spinning on its axle powered by lodestones, appeared in 8th century Bavaria. The wheel was supposed to rotate perpetually; in fact, it did rotate for a long time, but friction inevitably eventually stopped it. Early designs of perpetual motion machines were done by Indian mathematician–astronomer Bhaskara II, who described a wheel (Bhāskara's wheel) that he claimed would run forever.
A drawing of a perpetual motion machine appeared in the sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt, a 13th-century French master mason and architect. The sketchbook was concerned with mechanics and architecture. Following the example of Villard, Peter of Maricourt designed a magnetic globe which, if it were mounted without friction parallel to the celestial axis, would rotate once a day. It was intended to serve as an automatic armillary sphere.
Mark Anthony Zimara, a 16th-century Italian scholar, proposed a self-blowing windmill.
Various scholars in this period investigated the topic. Robert Boyle devised the "perpetual vase" ("perpetual goblet" or "hydrostatic paradox") which was discussed by Denis Papin in the Philosophical Transactions for 1685. Johann Bernoulli proposed a fluid energy machine. In 1686, Georg Andreas Böckler, designed a "self operating" self-powered water mill and several perpetual motion machines using balls using variants of Archimedes screws. In 1712, Johann Bessler (Orffyreus), investigated 300 different perpetual motion models and claimed he had the secret of perpetual motion. Though allegation of fraud surfaced later (from a maid in his employment), investigators at the time, such as the lawyer Willem Jacob s'Gravesande, reported no such fraud.
In the 1760s, James Cox and John Joseph Merlin developed the Cox's timepiece. Cox claimed the timepiece a true perpetual motion machine, but as the device is powered from changes in atmospheric pressure via a mercury barometer, this is not the case.
In 1775, the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, made the statement that the Academy "will no longer accept or deal with proposals concerning perpetual motion." The reasoning was that perpetual motion is impossible to achieve and that the search for it is time consuming and very expensive. According to the members of the academy, those bright minds dedicating their time and resources to this search, could be utilized much better in other, more reasonable endeavors. Nevertheless, many individuals continued to propose and build various "perpetual" machines, in a quest of attaining their end goal of free energy. An example is Doctor Conradus Schiviers (1790). Schiviers made a belt-driven wheel in which several balls powered a water wheel and a bucket-chain (again raising the balls). Others tried to adapt his designs unsuccessfully a century later.
Industrial Revolution 
19th century 
In 1812, Charles Redheffer, in Philadelphia, claimed to have developed a "generator" that could power other machines. Upon investigation, it was deduced that the power was being routed from the other connected machine. Robert Fulton exposed Redheffer's schemes during an exposition of the device in New York City (1813). Removing some concealing wooden strips, Fulton found a cat-gut belt drive went through a wall to an attic. In the attic, a man was turning a crank to power the device.
In 1827, Sir William Congreve, 2nd Baronet devised a machine running on capillary action that would disobey the law of liquids never rising above their own level, so to produce a continuous ascent and overflow. The device had an inclined plane over pulleys. At the top and bottom, there travelled an endless band of sponge, a bed and, over this, again an endless band of heavy weights jointed together. The whole stood over the surface of still water. Congreve believed his system would operate continuously.
In 1868, an Austrian, Alois Drasch, received a US patent for a machine that possessed a "thrust key-type gearing" of a rotary engine. The vehicle driver could tilt a trough depending upon need. A heavy ball rolled in a cylindrical trough downward, and, with continuous adjustment of the device's levers and power output, Drasch believed that it would be possible to power a vehicle.
In 1870, E.P. Willis of New Haven, Connecticut made money from a "proprietary" perpetual motion machine. A story of the overly complicated device with a hidden source of energy appears in Scientific American article "The Greatest Discovery Ever Yet Made." Investigation into the device eventually found a source of power that drove it.
John Ernst Worrell Keely claimed the invention of an induction resonance motion motor. He explained that he used "etheric technology". In 1872, Keely announced that he had discovered a principle for power production based on the vibrations of tuning forks. Scientists investigated his machine which appeared to run on water, though Keely endeavored to avoid this. Shortly after 1872, venture capitalists accused Keely of fraud (they lost nearly five million dollars). Keely's machine, it was discovered after his death, was based on hidden air pressure tubes.
In 1881, John Gamgee developed a liquid ammonia machine which could operate at the boiling point from vaporation by radiant heat. The resultant expansion would drive a piston. The vapor does not condense to liquid to start the cycle over again, however, thus making the system inoperable. The Navy approved of the device and showed it to U.S. President James A. Garfield.
1900 to 1950 
|“||A departure from known methods – possibility of a "self-acting" engine or machine, inanimate, yet capable, like a living being, of deriving energy from the medium – the ideal way of obtaining motive power.||”|
By 1903, 600 English perpetual motion patents had been granted. A design patented in the early years of the 20th century involved a cable projecting 150 miles into the sky to induce electricity (technology at the time would limit its usefulness, as it weighed 80 tons) and to be held up by the aether.
In the 1910s and 1920s, Harry Perrigo of Kansas City, Missouri, a graduate of MIT, claimed development of a free energy device. Perrigo claimed the energy source was "from thin air" or from aether waves. Perrigo demonstrated the device before the Congress of the United States on December 15, 1917. Perrigo had a pending application for the "Improvement in Method and Apparatus for Accumulating and Transforming Ether Electric Energy". Investigators report that his device contained a hidden motor battery.
In 1917, John Andrews, a Portuguese chemist, had a green powder which he claimed and demonstrated could transform water into gas (referred to as a "gas-water additive"). He reportedly convinced a Navy official that it worked. Andrews disappeared after negotiations began. Andrews' laboratory was rummaged through and disheveled upon a return visit by United States Navy officials. Also in 1917, Garabed T. K. Giragossian is claimed, reportedly fraudulently, to have developed a free energy machine. Supposedly involved in a conspiracy, Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution offering him protection. The device was a giant flywheel that was charged up with energy slowly and put out a large amount of energy for just a second.
A series of designs were developed in the 1920s. During this period, Thomas Henry Moray demonstrated a "radiant energy device" to many people who were unable to find a hidden power source. On June 9, 1925, Hermann Plauson received U.S. Patent 1,540,998 which utilizes atmospheric energy. In 1928, Lester Hendershot got an Army commandant to endorse his free energy machine called the "fuelless motor". At the close of the 1920s, Edgar Cayce in Chicago, Illinois, described "Motors with no Fuel" (Reading 4665–1; March 8, 1928).
Modern era 
1951 to 1980 
In 1966, Josef Papp (sometimes referred to as Joseph Papp or Joseph Papf) supposedly developed an alternative car engine that used inert gases. He gained a few investors but when the engine was publicly demonstrated, an explosion killed one of the observers and injured two others. Mr. Papp blamed the accident on interference by physicist Richard Feynman, who later shared his observations in an article in LASER, Journal of the Southern Californian Skeptics. Papp continued to accept money but never demonstrated another engine.
Paul Bauman, a German engineer, developed a machine referred to as the "Testatika" and known as the "Swiss M-L converter" or "Thesta-Distatica". The device's operation has been recorded as far back as 1960s at a place called Methernitha (near Bern, Switzerland). The Testatika is an electromagnetic generator based on the 1898 "Pidgeon electrostatic machine" which includes an inductance circuit, a capacitance circuit, and a thermionic rectification valve. Allegedly a perpetual motion machine, the Testatika resembles in some respects a Wimshurst machine.
Guido Franch reportedly had a process of transmuting water molecules into high-octane gasoline compounds (named Mota fuel) that would reduce the price of gasoline to 8 cents per gallon. This process involved a green powder (this claim may be related to the similar ones of John Andrews (1917)). He was brought to court for fraud in 1954 and acquitted, but in 1973 was convicted. Justice William Bauer and Justice Philip Romiti both observed a demonstration in the 1954 case.
In 1958, Otis T. Carr from Oklahoma formed a company to manufacture UFO-styled spaceships and hovercraft. Carr sold stock for this commercial endeavor. He also promoted free energy machines. He claimed inspiration from Nikola Tesla, among others.
In 1962, physicist Richard Feynman discussed a Brownian ratchet that would supposedly extract meaningful work from Brownian motion, though he went on to demonstrate how such a device would fail to work in practice.
In the 1970s David Hamel produced the Hamel generator, an "antigravity" device, supposedly after an alien abduction. The device was tested on MythBusters where it failed to demonstrate any lift-generating capability.
Howard Robert Johnson developed a permanent magnet motor and, on April 24, 1979, received U.S. Patent 4,151,431.[The United States Patent office main classification of his 4151431 patent is as a "electrical generator or motor structure, dynamoelectric, linear" (310/12).] Johnson said that his device generates motion, either rotary or linear, from nothing but permanent magnets in rotor as well as stator, acting against each other. He estimated that permanent magnets made of proper hard materials should lose less than two percent of their magnetization in powering a device for 18 years.
1981 to 1999 
John Bedini claimed development of several free energy devices.
Dr. Yuri S. Potapov of Moldova, claims development of an over-unity electrothermal water-based generator (referred to as "Yusmar 1"). He founded the YUSMAR company to promote his device. The device has failed to work under tests.
CETI claimed development of a device that outputs small yet anomalous amounts of heat, perhaps due to cold fusion. Skeptics state that inaccurate measurements of friction effects from the cooling flow through the pellets may be responsible for the results.
The motionless electromagnetic generator (MEG), granted a U.S. patent in 2002, is most notable for claims of over-unity operation, a feat which would violate the first law of thermodynamics. Allegedly, the device can eventually sustain its operation in addition to powering a load without application of external electrical power, by extraction of vacuum energy from the immediate environment.
In 2002, the GWE (Genesis World Energy) group claimed to have 400 people developing a device that supposedly separated water into H2 and O2 using less energy than conventionally thought possible. No independent confirmation was ever made of their claims, and in 2006, company founder Patrick Kelly was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing funds from investors.
In 2006, Steorn Ltd. claimed to have built an over-unity device based on rotating magnets, and took out an advertisement soliciting scientists to test their claims. The selection process for twelve began in September 2006 and concluded in December 2006. The selected jury started investigating Steorn's claims. A public demonstration scheduled for July 4, 2007 was canceled due to "technical difficulties."  In June 2009, the selected jury said the technology does not work.
See also 
Further reading 
- Childress, D. H. (1994). The free-energy device handbook: A compilation of patents & reports. Stelle, Ill: Adventures Unlimited Press.
- Dircks, H. (1968). Perpetuum mobile: Or, A history of the search for self-motive power, from the 13th to the 19th century. With an introductory essay. Amsterdam: B.M. Israël
- Verance, P., & Dircks, H. (1916). Perpetual motion: Comprising a history of the efforts to attain self-motive mechanism, with a classified, illustrated, collection and explanation of the devices whereby it has been sought and why they failed, and comprising also a revision and re-arrangement of the information afforded by "Search for self-motive power during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries," London, 1861, and "A history of the search for self-motive power from the 13th to the 19th century," London, 1870, by Henry Dircks. Chicago: Printed by Rogers & Hall co.
General sources 
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