· THE WHEEL AT GERA ( 1712 )
Collection of Clues about Bessler Wheel
Locations on Google Map
Orffyreus and His Maidservant
Orffyreus Refused to Marry

Professor 'sGravesande Defends the Orffyreus Case.


In fact, the events described in previous pages marked the peak of the Orffyreus’ life and what then followed was a constant regress in the life of inventor. The years 1726 - 1727 were again a difficult year for Orffyreus. In 1726 his wife died. His mother, Maria also died in July or August 1727.  Although he married again, he never got the same support from his second wife, and had to face more problems and troubles in the years to come.  Moreover, because of the old age of Count Karl, Orffyreus lost his active support, which allowed his enemies, particularly Gärtner and gang; to do everything they could to discredit him again.. 


Let us learn few things about Orffyreus' maidservant and their relationship that marked a turning point in life of Orffyreus.





Around 1711, among those who frequented visited Orffyreus' house, was a young deprived woman, Anne Rosine Mauersbergerin. who, for some time past, appeared musing and in deep melancholy. Pained to see her in that state, one day Orffyreus called on her. “I do not wish,' said Orffyreus, ' to pry into a secret you did not wish to unburden your heart to me, but I see you are very much depressed, sorrowful, and your situation makes me both uneasy and unhappy. I know you are not rich, and I understand you may have wants, which you cannot disclose me. I bring you few Reichsthalers, which you need more than me. You will certainly not refuse them if you feel any friendship for me; and by-and-by, when you find yourself in better circumstances, you will return them.” This woman, moved to tears by the generosity of the action, assured him that she did not want money but her disappointment had another cause, and therefore could not accept his offer. However, she expressed her gratitude that she would never forget the kindness, which Orffyreus bestowed upon her.                  


One day when Anne saw Orffyreus returning back his home with something like a scissors’ jack in his hand, she went near and wanted to know what was that machine he carried in  his hands and out of her curiosity she also enquired about  other weird machines in his home. At this, Orffyreus thought better to reply her with a demonstration, instead of mere words, so in a flash when Orffyreus stretched scissors’ jack in front of her its levers almost reached the place where Anne was standing and for a moment the sudden act also frightened her as she thought that the machine was going to incise her nose. Gazing her eyes at the zigzag pattern of levers, Anne once again amusingly asked: ‘Did you make it to catch fishes for me?’ Hearing it, Orffyreus laughed and nodded his head.  He thought it would be useless to explain her everything about his secret work. 


Though Anne had very closely seen the entire development of the over-balancing wheels in its different versions at the various places, Orffyreus was quite sure that she had no sufficient acumen to understand the real designs of his machines. He was convinced that it was beyond her intelligence to understand the working mechanism of his machine. Orffyreus was also surprised to see that she had no big concern over the secret about which he had been cautious since he had discovered perpetual motion. Orffyreus also deliberately confused her maid so that she could never know exact working of the wheel. One theory is that Orffyreus himself deliberately fabricated the story to divert the maid servant mind that motive power of the wheel came from the hidden mechanism consisting of a thin wire that extended from the axle of the machine to the adjacent room where from wheel could be manually turned, in this way Orffyreus fooled his maid to think that wheel was being turned manually. Orffyreus might have also provided his maid an opportunity to do so, so that she would supposedly spread that. 


Maid servant sometimes helped Orffyreus in the construction of wheel, inserting nails into the levers, tying rope and fastening the wheel when Orffyreus was loading heavy weights. From proximity, all that she could know about the Orffyreus and his machine was that he was engaged in a big mission of some secret nature and its success would make Orffyreus a big man someday. Since she also saw her own future in the success of Orffyreus and his works, wholeheartedly, she took interest in Orffyreus’ mission and often prayed for the success of his works.     


Anyhow, the year 1726 marked a turning point in the their relationship. After the death of Orffyreus’ wife in the year, Anne by the time had large hopes and wanted to marry Orffyreus. When Orffyreus kept on constantly avoiding marriage, Anne almost threatened him that she would take a revenge.  Since her manners and dispositions were always child like, Orffyreus never took the threat seriously and all that Orffyreus could do was to remind her abide by the oath that was written on a paper. When in 1727 Anne knew it clear that Orffyreus would marry other woman, she decided to disgrace Orffyreus. Even before Orffyreus felt forced to dismiss the maidservant, she left Orffyreus’ home. Anne had been since 1711 in the services of Orffyreus and he was 38 years old at the time of sad departure of her maidservant.  When maid departed, Orffyreus could not sleep the following night, he was terrified to have thought that maid would break the oath and his secret could be lost forever. Maid left the home with oath Orffyreus made her swear second time on paper however,  Orffyreus could not understand why maid did bother to take paper with her on which oath was written. It read:

Source: "An Ancient Mystery Solved?" By Collins

Alleged Secret of Orffyreus' wheel

 On 28th November 1727 Gartner somehow managed to get Orffyreus’ maid, Anne Rosine Mauersbergerin to sign a statement according to which she had been turning the machine from the adjacent room through a concealed mechanism. Orffyreus’ maid testified to authorities that Orffyreus, his wife, his brother Gottfried and herself had turned all of his wheels manually. She stated a small crank in an adjoining room carried out the turning.  She claimed the posts had been hollowed out and contained a long and thin piece of iron with a barb at the bottom, which was attached to the shaft journal.

Orffyreus was arrested for fraud; this stopped him from further promoting his machine.  The maids’ accusations were discredited and the charges were dismissed, he was set free but Orffyreus’ reputation was permanently damaged.


The following copy extant in achieves describes the whole conspiracy against Orffyreus:


“Orffyreus’ maid Anne Rosine Mauersbergerin, born in Drebach near Annaberg in Saxony and now 38 years of age, stated that she had served him for many years, since 1711, and knew the full facts and circumstances surrounding the Orffyrean wheel. It had been turned manually from its very beginnings in Gera and had never moved by itself; even in places such as Merseburg and Weissenstein when it had been locked; Orffyreus, his wife, his brother Gottfried and herself, the maid, had taken turns to rotate the machine. He had promised her 2 Groschen for each hour of turning, and she had received 9 Reichsthalers as a salary only a few months ago. Gottfried, who had done most of the turning, had received 100 Reichsthalers. She was made to turn the wheel by night and day, since it was feared that someone might look to see if it was still rotating at night. When the Archimedean screw had been attached to it as well, it had become very heavy to turn. The posts had been hollowed out and contained a long thin piece of iron with a barb at the bottom which - according to the statement - was attached to the shaft journal. Turning was carried out from Orffyreus’ bedroom, which was close to the machine, on a shelf behind the bed. If they would take her to the house and room in Weissenstein, she would be able to show how everything had been arranged. The strip of iron had been forged by the Court Blacksmith in Kassel. She, the maid, Gottfried, his brother, Orffyreus’ wife and daughter…had all been forced to swear a terrible oath which she had kept in the original, drawn up by his own hand and of which copies are attached.


“When the wheel had to be turned by day and night for eight weeks in Weissenstein, she once complained that she could not carry on like this, particularly as it happened in the winter’s cold. He replied that she should not fret and promised to pay her so that she would be content. On being asked how he could have instructed people turning the machine to stop it or start it up again or make it change its direction of rotation when he, himself, was in another room and in the presence of strangers who had come to see the wheel, she replied that she had recognised his wishes either from his manually starting the wheel or from his coughing, clearing his throat, spitting or a similar sign. He had initially refused to pay her the outstanding money due to her for turning the wheel, but when she threatened to lodge a formal complaint in Kassel and tell all, he finally consented to pay her.”


John Collins, author of the book " An ancient mystery solved?”  rejects the allegations in following words.


“...You couldn’t even make the wheel move if you had to apply force through the bearings!  To believe that anyone would be able to operate a mechanism for six hours a day for two months without rest beggars belief, always assuming you could actually turn the thing.  Further investigation convinced me that she was part of a conspiracy involving the people that the inventor constantly referred to as his ‘enemies’.  We know who they were and they had good reasons for trying to discredit Bessler.  The house cleaner’s affidavit, on closer examination is clearly a record of a question and answer session.  It is easy reading between the lines to see that an official, following accusations that she made, was closely questioning her.  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 Bessler’s duplicity, and yet he was released without charge."


Professor Willem 'sGravesande also responded in strong terms to the maid's allegations:


“...They say that a servant under oath, turned Orffyreus' machine, she being in an adjoining room. I know perfectly well that Orffyreus is mad, but I have no reason to think him an imposter... This I know, as certainly as anything in the world, that if the servant says the above, she tells a great falsehood... [During the examination,] I ordered the machine be dismounted from its supports, and we saw the bearings uncovered. I examined the bearings on which the journals rested and there did not appear any trace of communication with the adjoining room. I remember very distinctly the whole set of circumstances regarding that investigation...”

's Gravesande had already checked Orffyreus’ machine and acknowledged its merit but when the rumor of fraud was spread, 's Gravesande integrity came under question. Professor boldly maintained his position and didn’t escape into flimsy excuses. In fact, after Orffyreus examination of wheel he became more convinced of the creation of perpetual motion by human hands. Let's say, in the mechanical area. As far as (Al)chemy was concerned, he still expected unknown possibilities to reach that aim. Later, Gravesande wrote about the machine for another 20 years until 1742. None of this, however, did much help to Orffyreus’ reputation. Few authors mention that Orffyreus was rebuilding his machine in 1727, and that 's Gravesande had agreed to examine it again.  But there is no record that it was ever tested. 

Professor wrote about his concern to reward the Orffyreus:


         “The question of the possibility or impossibility of perpetual motion, then, seems to me to be of little consequence; but it is desirable that the strong belief which mathematicians have regarding its impossibility should not prevent them from paying serious attention to such a machine as the astonishing wheel of Kassel; a wheel having the principle of internal movement, and which is moved by the slightest effort, turning either way without any necessity to reverse the motive power; lastly, after making some millions of surprisingly rapid turns, continues in its motion until stopped by a strong effort of the arm. It appears to me that such a machine merits some praise, even if it does not satisfy all its inventor’s representations. If it is perpetual motion, he deserves the recompense he asks; if not, the public may, nevertheless, discover here a beautiful invention.”

The author of “Forbidden Inventions” George Egely also refutes the charges against Orffyreus as follows:

“Of course, after reading this document, we must decide for ourselves who was lying: the maid or Orffyreus? This was the age of witchcraft trials, when hundreds of thousands of people were forced to plead guilty to having made a deal with the devil, having had intercourse with the devil, having ridden a broom on Witch Sabbaths, or having had sexual relations with the incubus. Such confessions were extorted throughout the 18th century. (Even in the late 1990s here in Eastern Europe, we were able to read confessions from devoted communists who, after a good beating, ‘admitted’ to being agents for the Imperialists, to have spied for the CIA or to have had a Fascist past.) We know of a wide range of forced confessions, so there is no particular point in dealing with the question above: rather, we should focus instead on whether or not there is consistency in the testimonies. Of course, genuine evidence for Orffyreus' trustworthiness would be available if we could reproduce his device here and now. Obviously we do not believe that the device is irreproducible. The unambiguous evidence will only be available if we are able to construct an accurate reproduction or a similar machine as soon as we understand its principal mechanism. (Towards the end of the next chapter I intend to show this, but now let us return to the testimony of the maid.)


There are several disturbing facts. First of all, the testimony cannot explain the fact that the wheel had been relocated from one place to another several times and in front of several witnesses, and that the axle and the supporting posts had been thoroughly examined every time. Furthermore, even if the members of the commission had been blind or notorious liars, doubt would still remain about the practical possibility of turning a shaft 1.5 cm in diameter with a barbed rack and a rope. On a smooth shaft journal with such a small radius, a barbed rack could not transmit a large torque. Even if the shaft journal had been cogged, it would have been problematic to power the wheel like this, since at that time neither court blacksmiths nor the best mechanics could make a matching cog-wheel and barbed iron with such precision and with loading capacity sufficient to carry out the task. Knowing of what poor quality the iron forged at the time was, it was impossible that the power required by the wheel could have been satisfied by a barbed rack on such a small radius. Another perplexing circumstance is how a continuous unidirectional motion could be maintained with a piece of barbed iron; a further problem is how a cog-wheel could be turned by a rope. None of the witnesses saw cogs on the axle. It seems obvious, therefore, that the written testimony is as obscure and controversial as frame-up files are in general.”        

We know Orffyreus constantly referred to his enemies who could go any extent to fabricate a false story against him to discredit his invention.  It seems that besides Gartner and Orffyreus’ maidservant many other people were also involved in conspiracy and they all were bent upon undermining the credibility of Orffyreus as a genuine inventor of perpetual motion machine.  For example, man called Crowsaz also acted like an archenemy without any obvious reason, he wrote venomously against Orffyreus.

“...First Orffyreus is a fool, second it is impossible that a fool can have discovered what such a number of people have searched for without success, third, I do not believe in impossibilities.... fifth the servant who ran away from his house for fear of being strangled, has in her possession, in writing, the terrible oath that Orffyreus made her swear; sixth, he only had to have asked in order to have had this girl imprisoned, until he had time to finish his machine ...eighth, it is true that there is a machine at the house , to which they give the name of perpetual motion , but that is small one and cannot be removed”.

                In above remarks we see that Crowsaz alludes to the same maidservant who took key part in conspiracy under   the influence of Gartner. House cleaner’s affidavit, which contains a record of question answer session between the official and the maid, has been produced from time to time as the only evidence against the Orffyreus. Unfortunately, she has been deliberately chosen and consigned an important role by all those authors and historians who intentionally forget all the respectable evidence in favor of Orffyreus and only cling to the false charges made by the maidservant to discredit the whole story. Again and again, they are not tired of mentioning maidservant in their writings to prove that Orffyreus was a fraud because maidservant had in her possession, in writing, the terrible oath that Orffyreus made her swear that he had turned the machine from an adjoining room and thus played a trick.  During official tests, hundreds of highly respected and impartial people carefully examined the bearings and attested to the fact that no sign of fraud could be found, even when the wheel was moved from one set of supports to another. Regardless, the maid's testimony forever tarnished Orffyreus ' reputation.


         At the beginning of the 18th century, there used to be rarely mercy with frauds. Any one who deceived their sovereigns had a death penalty.  In  1709, Cajetano, the gold-maker, was "raised" - at the gallows. Gärtner and his gang probably knew this fact so they invented the whole story. 

George Egely* remarks: 


              “ There are, of course, people who are satisfied with any lie, lest they have to face the truth. Further, it is true that Orffyreus himself indirectly contributed to the spreading of this lie by his compulsive secretiveness, by not revealing the working principle, the secret of the mechanism. The life of this inventor follows the usual path: he loses his patron, he is left alone in his fight, he becomes lonely and embittered, and poverty inevitably follows.”


Source:Oath :"An Ancient Mystery Solved?" By Collins 

* George Egely*- “ Forbiden Invention – Chapter I “The beginnings”

Willem Jacob 's Gravesande


                                      Copyright © 2005 Dr. Ramesh Menaria all rights reserved.