The Wonder World of ... Whenever
by Robert A. Nelson
Dozens of inventors in the 20th century demonstrated working models of amazing power-generating devices that could have revolutionized society with non-polluting energy sources. Something went very wrong, however, and now we are trapped in an Extinction Event.
Perhaps artifactual intelligence can save us with an algorithm, but such technocratic cleverness is unnecessary. Fortunately for the redemption and continuity of our putative civilization, numerous newspaper and magazine accounts and patents have survived to date which describe some particularly interesting wonderments that appeared briefly, then vanished from public attention in the early 1900s. They deserve a modern review before being abandoned in our rush to Now.
Some of these machines used antennas and special coil windings to capture and convert atmospheric energy from all bands into kilowatts of electrical power -- much more than can be expected from such circuits if only electrostatic ions and radio waves were the source of energy. Some novel form of amplification and transformation was involved, or perhaps another frequency or form of energy ("paralectricity"?) was being tapped and converted to electricity as we know it.
A lot of research and development is being devoted to the capture of electricity from the environment, but much of it is high technology that requires industrial infrastructure to produce (e.g., transistors and exotic alloys). Unless we immediately and greatly improve human behavior such conveniences certainly will be in short supply someday too soon.
Meanwhile, here are several elegant alternatives that require only wire and magnets to perform their phenomena. They are most worthy of urgent investigation and implementation lest and before we all die of collectivized stupidity.
Clemente Figueras : Infinity Energy Machine
Clemente Figueras was a professor of physics at St. Augustine's College in the Canary Islands in the early 1900s. Newspapers of the day reported his invention of an apparatus that drew "Electricity From The Air" (New York Times, 9 June 1902) :
"A dispatch from the Daily Mail from Las Palmas, Canary Islands, says that a prominent engineer of that town named Figueras claims to have discovered a method of utilizing atmospheric electricity without chemicals or dynamos, and said that he is able to make practical application of his method without employing any motive force.
"Senor Figueras believes that his invention will bring about a tremendous industrial revolution."
Other newspapers repeated the story, which was mistaken, however, in that atmospheric electricity was not involved.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Figueras' invention comprised "a generator, a motor, and sort of governor or regulator, the whole apparatus being so simple that a child could work it." His prototype model generated 550 volts, which he used to light his house and to drive a 20-horsepower motor.
Figueras received several Spanish patents, but the original copies were destroyed by flood, except for #30375 and #44267.
The circuit drawings shown here are from Spanish Patent #44267 ("Electrical Generator Figuera"), granted to co-inventor Constantino de Buforn in 1908. It is described as "an electric generator without using mechanical force, since nothing moves, which produces the same effects of current dynamo-electric machines thanks to several fixed electromagnets, excited by a discontinuous or alternating current which creates an induction in the motionless induced circuit, placed within the magnetic fields of the excitatory electromagnets."
Spanish Patent #44267
Jules Guillot : Electric Siphon
Jules Guillot demonstrated his "Electric Siphon" for the first time in 1923. It yielded 300 watts with a collector 2 meters tall. The vertical antenna was made of rods pointing to the sky to collect negative electricity, and the horizontal antenna was pointed to the Equator to collect positive electricity. A later, larger model produced about 3 kilowatts with a 20 meter antenna height. The amount of power depended on the antenna height and total collector surface.
Jules Guillot's 300-Watt "Electric Siphon"
[ Click to enlarge ]
The collection system is jump-started by pumping the atmospheric electrical field with auxiliary batteries and Ruhmkorff coils connected to pairs of magnetic steel collecting rods. The siphoned energy passes through a series of unique rectifier tubes filled with several minerals and elements that somehow add a magnetic component to the voltage, thus giving it amperage and regulating the output.
French Patent #551882
[ Click to enlarge ]
According to Guillot's French Patent FR551882 ("Apparatus for Capture of Electric Currents in the Atmosphere"), the apparatus selects "two perfectly distinct currents and eliminates others... A panel of resistances composed of wire mesh in bunches from different sections of glass tubes containing copper dust, coal and flowers of sulfur... Vacuum cleaners consists of a wooden box on each pole, containing a porcelain vase in which layers isolated with mica is made up of mercury, tin, coal, copper and sulfur, all contained in a copper tube.
Guillot left more details of the construction in French Patent FR565395 ("Combined Apparatus for Capture of Atmospheric Electric Currents with Immediate Implementation"):
"The antenna has two points of steel, supported by a bronze ring, surrounded by a spiral form One point is oriented North to attract negative electricity and the other copper coils, and is oriented south to the equator. The antenna must be higher than surrounding houses... Lightning arrestors formed of 7 copper horns are used to absorb large atmospheric discharges.. Two symmetrical systems regulators, one for each pole, automatically absorb surges.
"The resistances are formed as spiral coils or screens, and tubes of glass filled with fine coal dust, aluminum powder, sulfur and fine copper dust. Finally, two special processors comprised of layers of metal forming an absorbant for harmful or abnormal currents.
Chauncy Britten : Radio Apparatus
Chauncy Britten was featured on December 31, 1930 in the Lansing, Michigan Daily News,which proclaimed that an "Inventor Promises Free Light & Power :
"Electric Light and Power “as free as air” is the literal promise of Chancey J. Britten, 73-year old electrical wizard of Charlotte, Michigan. He is obtaining patents to safeguard his invention, a device which actually extracts electricity from the air without the aid of customary generators and motors. It consists of an aerial, home-made generator, and storage batteries. Photo shows him in front of his home, which he lighted for two years without expenditure of a penny for maintenance. At right is a closeup of the generator. Britten has defied anyone to explain the inner workings of his plant.
Britten was granted US Patent US1826727 ("Radio Apparatus") for his device, which was claimed "to economize and conserve the current and to regulate and to clarify the tone" of an attached radio.
It appears to be an insulated zig-zag copper tube containing a central wire wound with a coil that is insulated within mica in a partial vacuum. The inner wire and coil are connected to a 4-1/2 volt battery and the outer tube is connected to an antenna and a radio. Perhaps the copper tube also contains a proprietary formula. Britten was not forthcoming about the details:
"Just how the structure results in the advantages stated is problematical and applicant is only able to state the results and define the structure which accomplishes the same without expanding on the theory by which it is accomplished."
Lansing, Michigan Daily News ( December 31, 1930 )
US Patent #1826727
Lester Hendershot : Magnetic Induction Motor
Lester Hendershot invented his fuelless motor in 1926 as the result of a dream of "earth currents". His 4-year old son had built a model airplane and was disappointed because it would not fly. Dad told him he would build a working airplane. The result was the "Magnetic Induction Motor". The revolutionary feature was the armature winding that drew energy directly from geomagnetic currents.
Lester J. Hendershot
Hendershot said, "It obtains its initial impulse from a pre-charged magnetic core, and its secondary and greatest power impulse by magnetic induction from the earth."
The original model would always operate when pointing north or south, but not when aligned east-west. Further development over a 2-year period produced a motor that worked in any position.
D. Barr Peat, the manager of Bettis Field (McKeesport PA) visited the Hendershot home to see the model, and became enthusiastic about it. Peat made arrangements for Hendershot to construct a motor large enough to power an airplane. The result was about the size of a vacuum cleaner motor, which they demonstrated in an impressive block test that was witnessed by Col. Charles A. Lindbergh and other eminent citizens.
Major Lanphier, who was one of the witnesses, told the New York Times ( 26 February 1928 ), "I saw the first model which Hendershot built hooked up to a small electric motor of the type used to operate a sewing machine. It not only ran the motor but it burned it out.
"The first model consisted of a ring magnet less than three inches in diameter. Around the magnet were coils rigged as only Hendershot knows how to rig them, and another set of coils pass through the center of the ring.
"With this contrivance we burned out the sewing machine motor and we also kept a 6 watt lamp going with it for 26 hours", he said.
"The larger model which has not yet been hooked to a motor that will deliver power to a crankshaft, Major Lanphier himself helped build.
"We put it together out of stuff we picked up at the field and with it we lighted two 110 watt lamps", Major Lanphier said. "I think that we have got enough electricity in this second model to kill a man.
"The second model is built around a ring magnet, the outside diameter of which is seven inches and the inside diameter six inches".
A reporter suggested that perhaps the Hendershot device was drawing its power from radio broadcasting stations.
"We thought of that", Lanphier said, "but we ran it for 26 hours when stations were going and when they were not and we got the same results".
Hendershot said elsewhere that several of his motors had been built, including one that produced 60 horsepower for two weeks without recharging the magnetic core.
In another interview published in the New York Times (28 February 1928), Hendershot said there was nothing mysterious about his motor; that the force that energizes it is the "same force that pulls the needle of the compass, and there is nothing mysterious about that".
"The ordinary magnetic compass does not point to the true north -- it points to the magnetic north, and varies from the true north to a different extent at almost every point on the earth’s surface... the magnetic induction compass, that indicates true north... must be set before each flight, and is not always reliable.
"I found that with a pre-magnetized core I could set up a magnetic field that would indicate true north, but I didn’t know just how to utilize that in the compass I set out to find.
"In continuing my experiments, I learned that by cutting the same line of magnetic force north and south, I had an indicator of the true north, and that by cutting the magnetic field east and west, I could develop a rotary motion.
"I now have a motor built on that principle that will rotate at a constant speed, a speed predetermined when the motor is built. It can be built for any desired speed, and a reliable constant speed motor is one of the greatest needs of aviation.
"The magnet is wound so that it will rotate in the opposite direction than the earth revolves. It generates no because magnetic forces are cold. The motor is stopped by breaking the magnetic field in the windings. The magnet would have to be recharged after about 2000 hours of operation.
"Mr. Hendershot declares that one of his motors, complete and ready to be installed in an airplane would weigh little more than four ounces for every horsepower it developed, while the best of the gas engines now built weighs about two pounds per horsepower.
Antonio d'Angelo : Interatomic Motor
On March 7, 1928, the New York Times ran a story about Father Antonio D'Angelo and his "Interatomic" Motor-Generator-Transformer, which could "generate many times the power it receives" from a battery start:
"Priest Has Motor Run By 'Ion Energy' -- An Italian Jesuit priest from Brazil announced here yesterday that he had invented a motor that makes use of "interatomic" energy to generate many times the power it receives originally from an electric battery. The motor is now at Washington, where it is undergoing the Patent Office investigation.
"The priest is the Rev. Antonio d’Angelo, S.J., a stocky, earnest little man who combines missionary work in Brazil with tinkering in his own electrical laboratory. He speaks no English, but told of his machine through his brother, Biagio d’Angelo of 1475 LeLand Ave., the Bronx.
"Father d’Angelo became interested in electricity 20 years ago when he was a student at a Jesuit seminary in Naples. A year and a half ago he was sent out by his Order to Brazil to carry on missionary work at Ribeirao Preto among the Italian emigrants. He had to get a special dispensation from Bishop Alberto Gonzales of Ribeirao Preto to visit the United States where, so his brother had written him, fortune comes more easily to the man with a money-saving device. He came here in November 1927, and has urged his Bishop to extend his leave of six months.
"The missionary priest does not believe in the Hendershot "fuelless motor".
"I challenge anyone", he said yesterday, "to use the magnetic field of the earth for running a motor. The energy from that would be too small".
"His motor, he said, could be used in the home to supply electric lighting cheaply, and even heating. He said that it could be used to run trains, airplanes and automobiles.
"Father d’Angelo had a plan of his motor with him yesterday. He showed how it started to develop energy from an electric battery, and how this original impulse worked on the machine to generate many time its power through the "electricity produced by the inter-atomic energy of the ions".
Father d'Angelo received US Patent 2021177 ("Motor Generator & Other Transformer"). His combined motor-generator transformed DC into a two-phase AC, or DC to low or high voltage DC, or high voltage AC to very low voltage DC, all without using any auxiliary devices.
US Patent #2021177
Several design details make this motor unique. The armature is wound with the coils distanced at an angle proportional to the angle between two poles. Self-induction is avoided and sparking is almost completely eliminated. The coils encircle two poles twice with changes in pitch that increase the strength of the secondary circuit, which has a smaller number of conductors and turns. The pitch of the primary winding is much shorter than the pitch of the secondary winding.
Father d'Angelo may have been a Jesuit and thus capable of committing Holy Inquisition, but it seems extremely unlikely that he and his superiors would have attempted to commit fraud with a patented, proven device such as the "Interatomic Motor". The machine was not put into production, but it is a safe bet that the Pope has one at his disposal, as to do some of his minions.
Palmer Craig : Hall Effect Device
"In January 1927, Radio World featured a "Tubeless Receiver Claimed by Professor, Using Bismuth & Copper":
That was Professor Palmer H. Craig and his Hall Effect Device.
"Recently it was announced at Mercer University (Macon GA), that the Westinghouse Electric & manufacturing Co. had offered Dr. Palmer H. Craig, head of the physics department of the university,
"$100,000 for a new device which is supposed to replace vacuum tubes as amplifiers and detectors.
"The device is called an "electromagnetic detector and amplifier" and consists of a series of bismuth plates stacked in a pile and interlaced with copper wires. The bismuth plates are protected by a coating of sulfur because bismuth, a very brittle substance, is likely to crumble.
"Dr. Craig emphasizes the point that the device will displace batteries as well as vacuum tubes in radio sets.
"Dr. Craig, who is not yet 30, developed the invention, upon which he immediately applied for a patent, for his thesis at the University of Cincinnati where he received his degree of Doctor of Philosophy last June.
"When asked to show the invention, Dr. Craig drew out a small block of substance resembling sulfur. It was an inch thick, about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. Protruding from the top were tiny wires. It was encased except for the top.
"He styled the device “an application of bismuth plates as detectors and amplifiers”, which could be used in place of present batteries and vacuum tubes in a radio.
"The inventor today spoke of the device as “a series of about 10 thin bismuth plates, piled one on the other, with wires running between them and finally on out to the actual radio set.”
"Because of the delicate nature of the bismuth plates, Dr. Craig has protected them with a covering of sulfur. According to the inventor, the bismuth plates will generate the energy necessary to operate the radio and serve as a detector and amplifier.
"The author is at present using this additive principle in an application of the Hall effect to rectification of alternating current, with a method similar to that described by Descoudres.
"The additive principle used in this connection produces a Hall potential of several volts in low fields with thin bismuth films, and thus gives the Hall effect a practical importance as a rectifier, especially in radio and similar applications."
Writing in the Physical Review (vol. 27, pp. 772-778, June 1926) on "The Hall Effect in Bismuth with Low Magnetic Fields", Craig stated in the abstract that, "...The value of the Hall coefficient, R, is abnormally large between 0.07 and 0.30 gauss, having a value of -171 at 0.07 gauss, as compared with a value of -11 which R had for this film at 15 gauss... It is noted that by putting the Hall potential of one film in series with one or more other films we obtain comparatively high values of the Hall emf, which may be applied to great advantage as an alternating current rectifier in radio and similar applications.
C.W. Heaps also experimented with the Hall Effect in small magnetic fields, and concluded that Craig had erred in his experiments, probably because of insulation leakage or uncompensated thermomagnetic effects." ( Physical Review, vol. 29, Issue 2, pp. 332-336 )
Whether right or wrong in theory, Craig's Hall Effect device apparently worked in reality, and it should be replicated for further testing with modern equipment and methods. There was no mystery about its operation. Palmer Craig received several US patents that clearly describe the construction and various applications of his "System & Apparatus Employing the Hall Effect": US1322129, US1822129, US17787 96, and US1825855.
Alfred Hubbard : Coil Generator
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran this iconic story about Al Hubbard on 29 July 1920: "Hubbard Coil Runs Boat On Portage Bay Ten Knots An Hour; Auto Test Next", recounting how Hubbard and two passengers drove an 18-foot boat with a 35 horsepower electric motor from the Seattle Yacht Club around Portage Bay between 8-10 knots without losing speed.
The coil was 11 inches in diameter and 14 inches long. It produced a pulsating current of 125 V / 280 A. Hubbard said it was made of eight electromagnets with primary and secondary windings arranged around a large steel core. The core has a single winding that was given a jump start "in a secret manner". If the coil loses power, it can be restarted instantly. The electric motor was 12 inches in diameter by 18 long, and had been rebuilt to be used with the Hubbard coil. According to some accounts of the Hubbard saga, that coil actually was a receiver for an array of antenna wires that were buried onshore. At their center was another Hubbard coil, adapted to transmit its power as a ground wave that was picked up by the portable coil.
The Hubbard Coil
Several years later Hubbard was interviewed by the Seattle Post Intelligencer (February 26, 1928) seeking his comment about Lester Hendershot's motor. During the interview, "Hubbard eventually admitted it actually was a device for extracting electricity from radium by means of a series of transformers."
"Hubbard sold out a 75% interest for a mess of pottage.
"When I made my discovery in 1919", he said, "I was only 16 years old and, until that time, I’d never even had an ice cream soda. So you can imagine that a couple of thousand dollars looked mighty big to me. I never hesitated for an instant when the people who were financing me... kept demanding more and more of my rights.
"But, at last, along in 1922, I suddenly came to the realization that if I acceded to their latest demand I’d have only 20% interest left, so I just quit them cold".
Hubbard received US Patent US1723422 ("Internal Combustion Engine Spark Plug") for a radium-soaked spark plug that improved fuel ignition. The patent may well also apply to his legendary power coil.
Al Hubbard went on to live an adventurous life that has been well documented, but the secret of his generator has been lost to public knowledge since then. Obviously, however, it is stashed in a corporate safe somewhere.
The later invention of the "NuCell" nuclear battery by Paul Brown ( US Patent US4835433 : "Apparatus for Direct Conversion of Radioactive Decay Energy to Electrical Energy") closely resembles the Hubbard circuit, but it was never demonstrated to produce such high power as Hubbard's device. It was jump-started with high voltage DC.
US Patent #4835433
Roy Meyers : Absorber
The case of Roy J. Meyers' "Absorber" leaves no doubt that kilowatts of power can be drawn from the atmosphere. There was no possibility of fraud.
While Meyers was serving a 3-1/2 year sentence, circa 1910, he was assigned to superintend the prison's electrical power, and there invented a method to use atmospheric electricity for power, and a parole supervisor allowed him to use a prison workshop to build and test the device.
Miss Kate Barnard, State Commissioner of Charities and Corrections of Oklahoma, saw the machine at work, and was so impressed by its performance that she appeared before the Arizona legislature and appealed for his case. A 30-day parole was granted by Governor Hunt so the inventor could apply for a patent in Washington DC. Meyer went to Washington, applied for patent his device, and returned to Florence to complete his sentence. A US patent was not issued, but Meyer did receive British Patent BP191301098 ("Improvements in and Relating to Apparatus for Producing Electricity") in 1913.
Roy J. Meyers' Absorber"
Meyers said, "When I arrived in Washington and laid my plans before the patent office experts, they merely smiled and told me that I would have to build a model and demonstrate my claims --- that it seemed strange that I, unknown as I am in the electrical world, should have accomplished the things for which Edison, Tesla and other experts have been striving for years.
"They could not grasp the meaning of my drawings nor the explanation I tried to make to them. There was little time to spare, as I had only 20 days left of my leave, but I set to work in a few days was able to take a crude model around to the patent office to make a demonstration.
"Arriving at the patent office I telephoned to a friend who had been so kind as to introduce me and aid me in reaching the proper officials. The absorber was hoisted on two short poles and made to work.
While they were as yet unable to understand the principles involved and hardly willing to believe their eyes, they were forced to admit that I had something new and different, and they told me that there would be no further objection; that I might file my application without further delay."
"The flow of electricity is constant... It will absorb the electricity day and night... The magnetizing of one set of plates is part of the secret of the treatment which makes it respond to the accumulations of the atmosphere."
After his release from prison, Meyer moved to Baltimore, where he made his first finished apparatus, but the invention never was produced.
Meyers also built an "Air Car" that was powered by his US Patent US1608802 ("Fluid-Pressure Generator"). Four tanks of compressed air could drive the car 500 miles at 35 mph with no cooling system, ignition system, carburetor, or hundreds of the moving parts in a gasoline engine. An electric heater, operated by a battery and generator, heated the air to a pressure of 200 lbs. to operate the engine. The worked air was cooled and compressed, heated again, and returned to the tank. Like the Absorber, it too never reached the public market.
All the inventions presented above make it apparent that in the early 1900s, society got a glimpse of alternative sources of energy that then disappeared for several reasons. These include inevitable death, lost notes and models, and suppression by corporations and governments (is there a difference?). The scant details that are available have emerged only recently as the internet fills up with information.
These antique inventions must be replicated using modern computers, 3-D printing, oscilloscopes, etc. Only a systematic research program will determine the facts. It is a safe bet, however, that money spent on R&D of these discoveries will yield phenomenal return-on-investment.
Once upon another timeline long, long ago, these and many other amazing inventions threatened to "revolutionize" society in a fundamental energetic manner. That threat has not yet materialized, but it still can, if you will. Amen.