Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Buchanan, 1 July 1807

Wadesboro’, Anson County, N. Carolina. July 1st. 1807.


I beg leave to submit to your consideration, as a member of the American Philosophical Society, the principle on which, I have conceived, the construction of a machine, capable of perpetuating its own motion, is practicable.

The following outline embraces the principle.

Let a wheel, of an adapted make to receive its revolution from a current of air, be inclosed in an airtight trunk, as snugly fitted to it as its requisite Strength & the unimpeded motion of the wheel will admit. Into the trunk, & a small distance through it, so as to give the most effectual direction to the current on the wheel, let a funnel-like pipe for admitting the necessary quantity of air, be inserted. Let this admitted current of air find its outlet through a Similar pipe leading from this into another trunk Similarly constructed & fitted out with its wheel—& let this pipe extend through its (the second) trunk the requisite distance to direct the continued current of air, as before. Let 1, 2, 3, or as many more trunks, with their wheels, as may be found necessary, be continued on by the same kind of tubular connexion—& to the last pipe, at the termination of the series of trunks, let a large air pump, or pumps, be affixed.

The trunks are to be arranged circularly, with the axes of the wheels raised perpendicularly, their elevated ends extending through the trunks to receive cog wheels, so as to be brought to a common bearing on one large wheel prepared to receive their united force. This large wheel is to work the pump.—

The idea is briefly sketched. It would be superfluous to go into any detail of contrivances, till the assumed basis for the plan be tested. You will particularly oblige me by giving your opinion whether the application of the principle, under any modification, to machinery, can be productive of any real accession of force.

I am your very humble Sert.

Geo. Buchanan

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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