John Keely
John Keely
John Ernst Worrell Keely was a US inventor from Philadelphia who claimed to have discovered a new motive power which was originally described as "vaporic" or "etheric" force, and later as an unnamed force based on "vibratory sympathy", by which he produced "interatomic ether" from water and air.
John Ernst Worrell Keely's personal information overview.
Photo Albums
Popular photos of John Ernst Worrell Keely
View family, career and love interests for John Ernst Worrell Keely
News abour John Ernst Worrell Keely from around the web
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of John Ernst Worrell Keely
  • 1898
    Age 60
    Keely died at his home in Philadelphia from pneumonia on 18 November 1898.
    More Details Hide Details His will was admitted to probate on 1 December, and bequeathed his entire estate of about $10,000 to his widow, Anna M. Keely, who was appointed his executor. The will made no reference to his motor. Keely is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
    The first meeting of the Keely Motor Company's stockholders following his death was held on 20 December 1898.
    More Details Hide Details Charles S. Hill, his widow's attorney, stated that Keely's secret did not exist in manuscript form, but that Keely had suggested before his death that an inventor, Thomas Burton Kinraide of Boston, was the one man who could successfully carry on his work. Hill then announced that he had a secret which he would pass on to only one person. This secret, he said, was "of a nature to encourage the stockholders and to induce them to leave everything in Kinraide's hands for one year". John J. Smith, one of the Company's Directors, was appointed to confer with Hill, and later reported that the secret told to him by Hill "offered great encouragement to the stockholders" but did not divulge any further details. In January 1899 Kinraide had 20 large packing cases transported to his laboratory in Jamaica Plain, Boston, said to contain the material part of Keely's motor. Kinraide said that he had often talked with Keely about the principles of his invention and said that he felt he knew more about it than any other person. He was to continue with Keely's experiments at the request of Mr. and Mrs Keely. However, on 6 May 1899 it was reported that Kinraide had abandoned all work on the Keely motor and was to return all the machines and notes to the Keely Company. He stated that he wanted nothing more to do with the motor due to the notoriety caused him by the Philadelphia Press's report and when asked whether he thought the motor was a fraud simply replied that he had not arrived at any such conclusion and had decided to make no further investigations.
  • 1897
    Age 59
    On 18 June 1897 Keely demonstrated his new etheric engine to the General Manager of the Manhattan Elevated Railway, the Chief Engineer of Western Union, and a representative of the Metropolitan Traction Company.
    More Details Hide Details All were reported as being surprised at the force produced by Keely's new motor, but declined to express any opinion as to its value. The engine was reported as weighing about and being capable of developing 10 hp.
  • 1895
    Age 57
    On 24 December 1895 Mrs Bloomfield Moore said that due to the position taken by the managers of the old Keely Motor Company at the annual meeting, and the delay on the part of the stockholders in accepting his proposition for a reorganization, Keely had decided not to take out any patents on his inventions, and would instead adopt a royalty system in dealing with his inventions commercially.
    More Details Hide Details Mrs Moore said that at least 30 patents would be required, which would take much time and money which would be better used in developing Keely's system.
    Scott made several visits to Keely's workshop, beginning on 9 November 1895, and was shown many demonstrations.
    More Details Hide Details Among these was a levitation experiment where heavy weights in sealed flasks of water were made to rise and fall in response to differently pitched sounds from a zither, to activate a "globe liberator" which then transmitted "the aetheric force" through a wire to the water container. This had been shown to many investors and investigators. Scott was accompanied by Burk on his second and third visits and when the two analysed what they had seen they concluded that compressed air had been used in nearly all the experiments, in some cases alongside another more powerful but hidden force. The demonstration with the rising and falling weights was powered by compressed air via a thin tube which Keely had assured Burk and Scott was a solid wire and which was a common feature in nearly every piece of apparatus in Keely's laboratory. Burk and Scott reported their findings to Mrs Moore, who was concerned by the negative report, and also by dismissive articles in the press. It was reported on 22 March 1896 that Mrs Bloomfield Moore had arranged with Professor Wentworth Lascelles Scott of London to investigate Keely's claims of etheric force and also to examine his other inventions. It was said that "an important series of tests will be made in the presence of the scientist". Lascelles Scott was allowed to examine whatever he wanted and had complete instructions on its use from Keely. After spending a month investigating, Lascelles Scott stated to a meeting of the Franklin Institute that "Keely has demonstrated to me, in a way which is absolutely unquestionable, the existence of a force hitherto unknown."
    Also in November 1895, Mrs Moore invited Addison B. Burk, president of the Spring Garden Institute to make an inspection.
    More Details Hide Details Burk asked if electrical engineer E. Alexander Scott of the Engineers Club could accompany him, and this was agreed to. In the event, Scott took charge of the investigation as he was familiar with Keely and had talked to him in 1874.
    Keely again informed the directors of his company in early November 1895 that "before the end of the year" he would "positively be all through with his work to prove conclusively that" he has devised "a practical commercial working engine" operated by his new force.
    More Details Hide Details On 14 November it was reported that another meeting had been arranged between Keely and Mrs Bloomfield Moore and New York capitalists headed by John Jacob Astor IV, who were interested in the Keely Motor Company. It was reported the following week that Astor had purchased a large interest in the motor from "a person who for some years past has been an enthusiastic advocate of M. Keely".
    In June 1895 the trade journal Electricity published a challenge to Keely, in which they said that they would undertake to repeat every phenomenon produced by Keely within 60 days.
    More Details Hide Details Keely ignored this challenge. After an absence of several years in England, Mrs Moore returned to the US to deal with litigation concerning her late husband's estate. Her advocacy of Keely and his inventions formed part of the case and she decided to strengthen her position by getting eminent physicists to examine his inventions. Among those invited were Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, both of whom declined the opportunity for various reasons.
  • 1889
    Age 51
    At the Keely Motor Company's stockholders' meeting in December, a report was read from Keely in which he discussed the difficulties he had had with the Board of Directors during 1889 and said that while the work of "graduating" or adjusting his provisional engine had not progressed as rapidly as he had expected, no serious obstacles had presented themselves, and there were no difficulties affecting the principle or "essence" of his work.
    More Details Hide Details While he could not give a timescale for when the graduation of the engine would be completed, Keely said that it would not be a protracted period, and that when it was finished, one or more engines would at once be ordered.
    On March 28, 1889 Keely's counsel announced that the inventor had the "missing link" which was needed to make the "vibratory resonator and ethereal generative evaporator" a success.
    More Details Hide Details It was described as a copper tube in the form of a loop, with the ends welded together so that no joint could be seen, and had been made in copper due to that metal's "resonant properties". A private demonstration of Keely's motor was promised as soon as the tube was "adjusted", and was stated as likely to occur "in a week or two".
    Finally, on 28 January 1889, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania handed down an opinion reversing the order committing Keely to prison for contempt, and ordered his discharge.
    More Details Hide Details The opinion declared that the order commanding Keely to "exhibit, explain, and operate his motor" was premature, and that the court had no right to enforce the order by committing Keely to jail for contempt.
  • 1888
    Age 50
    Finally, on 17 November 1888, Keely was jailed in Moyamensing Prison for contempt of court for refusing the court order to "operate and explain the mode of operation" of the Keely Motor.
    More Details Hide Details However, he was soon released on bail on 20 November by three judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
    On 3 January 1888 an injunction was granted against Keely on behalf of complainant Bennett C. Wilson, who said that in 1863 he had entered into an agreement with Keely, whom he had originally engaged to varnish furniture.
    More Details Hide Details The agreement was that Wilson was to find tools and materials and pay the expenses of inventions made by Keely, Keely agreeing that all inventions so made, and patents obtained, should be equally owned by him and Wilson. On 14 August 1869 Keely assigned a half ownership in what was referred to as the "Keely motor" to Wilson, who claimed that Keely had then assigned all rights and title to the invention later that same month in return for funds.
  • 1887
    Age 49
    The stockholders of the Keely Motor Company met on 14 December 1887, and expressed their confidence in Keely's ultimate success.
    More Details Hide Details Keely did not attend the meeting, but supplied a report in which he reviewed his efforts and experiments since 1882 and announced that he had abandoned "etheric force" in favour of a new force which was unnamed but which he said was based on "vibratory sympathy".
  • 1886
    Age 48
    On 26 March 1886 Keely performed a demonstration before a committee of scientists and engineers from New York, where he obtained a pressure of 2,700 psi apparently by using a single pint of water, and then doubled the pressure by adding more water.
    More Details Hide Details Keely claimed that the "etheric force" by which these results were obtained would be utilized as fully as possible in the 25,000 hp engine on which he was then working.
  • 1885
    Age 47
    On 6 June 1885 Keely gave what he called "an exhibition" of his motor at his workshop at North Twentieth Street, Philadelphia.
    More Details Hide Details Around 20 witnesses attended, including newspaper reporters, a mechanical engineer, and officers and stockholders of the Keely Motor Company. A reporter noticed a "large iron globular object" which he was told was a new engine which Keely was engaged in building. Keely assembled an apparatus on top of which was screwed a globe with several apertures to which tubes were fixed, leading to cylinders. A reporter asked if he could see the globe's contents, but Keely declined, saying that it would take too long, and that he wished to show results rather than the mechanism. Keely then proceeded by taking a violin bow and rubbing it across one of two large tuning forks which formed part of his apparatus. After making a minor adjustment to the device, he opened a stopcock leading into one of the cylinders and the witnesses heard "a hiss as of escaping air". Keely told them that it was in fact "etheric vapor", adding "It ain't compressed air or any vapor having substance." The force was then used to lift some weights, and Keely claimed that he had about 22,000 psi of pressure at his disposal.
  • 1884
    Age 46
    On 20 September 1884 Keely demonstrated a "vaporic gun" at Sandy Hook to a party of Government officials.
    More Details Hide Details He said that he had brought with him five gallons of "vaporic force" in a "receiver" which, if the experiments were successful, would show that no bogus aids had been used. The gun was described as a small gun with a bore, resting on wheels, with an iron "receiver" long containing Keely's mysterious force connected to it by "an iron wire tube" 3/16" (5 mm) in diameter. Keely rammed a small lead ball about in weight into the gun's muzzle, then tapped the iron "receiver" with a hammer. He explained that this was to stimulate the "vibratory force". He then turned a handle and the ball was fired from the gun with a short, sharp report but no smoke and very little recoil. It was reported that the projectile had been fired a distance of. More shots were fired and their velocity measured; one attained, another, and yet another. The gun was also tested by firing against three thick spruce planks and penetrated the first and went halfway through the second. Keely said that he had used a pressure of 7,000 psi and could use 30,000 psi.
    When the promised stockholders' meeting was held on 1 February 1884, another postponement was announced at Keely's request.
    More Details Hide Details A board meeting which took place on 25 March 1884 reported that the vibratory engine was finished, that "the work of adjusting and focalizing is progressing rapidly", and that Keely had set the date for the demonstration of the motor to take place on or before 10 April.
  • 1883
    Age 45
    At the annual stockholders' meeting on 12 December 1883 a letter from Keely was read out, in which the inventor said that he could not see why he might not fulfil the shareholders' expectations in the next two months and suggested that the stockholders' meeting be postponed to 1 February 1884.
    More Details Hide Details This proposal met with some disagreement from some stockholders, and it was decided to give Keely no funds for the next 60 days.
    On 28 August 1883, at the monthly meeting of the Company's directors, it was announced that Keely's engine would be ready for operation around the first week in September, and that a final inspection of it by the Trustees would be conducted on 29 August, at which the stockholders were expected to be present.
    More Details Hide Details When the inspection was made the following day, however, Keely said that it would not be ready for another six weeks. On 29 October 1883 it was reported that the Company's stockholders were to bring another suit against the inventor in the name of the company for "fulfilment of his many pledges". At a meeting of the Board of Directors the following day, Keely made a statement explaining his progress, saying that he was constructing a street chamber to hold his vapor and that when this was complete a demonstration would be given, and his explanation was voted "very satisfactory" by the directors.
  • 1882
    Age 44
    The annual meeting of the Company's stockholders on 13 December 1882 heard a report from Boekel in which he stated that what Keely claimed to have discovered was "the fact that water in its natural state is capable of being, by vibratory motion, disintegrated so that its molecular structure is broken up, and there is evolved therefrom a permanent expansive gas or ether, which result is produced by mechanical action".
    More Details Hide Details Boekel said that it would be improper to describe the mechanism used, and added that Keely had discovered all that he had claimed. It was later discovered by a Times reporter in August that Boekle had not yet been entrusted with the secrets of the motor as promised by Keely, and that the inventor kept delaying matters by telling Boekle that he could explain it to him in less than two hours after it was completed, and that he had not done so already because the engine had not yet reached that state.
    However, Keely was overruled by Judge Pierce on 1 April 1882, who ordered him to "make known his process in the way indicated in the bill filed by the Keely Motor Company".
    More Details Hide Details On 24 May Keely filed his answer to the stockholders' equity suit. He admitted the truth of the complainants' bill regarding the contract, and added that although, due to "certain abstruse difficulties by reason of the nature and qualities of the said force", he had so far failed to bring his inventions into practical use, he believed he would ultimately succeed. In June 1882 a committee appointed by the Company's board of directors agreed that one William Boekel of Philadelphia was to be "instructed by Mr. Keely in the construction and operation of his inventions".
    Keely was reluctant to reveal his secrets, and filed a demurrer on 20 January 1882 to the bill in equity presented against him by the Keely Motor Company's stockholders.
    More Details Hide Details The demurrer was described as entirely technical, and gave a number of reasons why the court should not afford the plaintiffs the relief they sought. Argument was heard on the demurrer in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas on 27 March, when it was argued that the inventor "could not be made to expose that which no one knew but himself and which was hidden in his own brain".
  • 1881
    Age 43
    On 14 December 1881 the stockholders of the Keely Motor Company held a meeting at which a report was read that complained that while they had faith in the merits of Keely's invention, the inventor was unreasonably secretive of the principles and operating methods of his apparatus.
    More Details Hide Details He had assured them that the "generator" had been perfected a year before, and that the "multiplicator" was also now perfected, and they considered it only fair and reasonable that the secrets of the machinery be revealed to them. They recommended that some intelligent and trustworthy person be taken into Keely's confidence "so that in the case of accident they would not be totally without a clue to the invention". The report complained at some length about Keely's uncommunicativeness and said that it was the experience of everyone who had come into contact with him over the previous ten years that "any attempt at a serious investigation of his operations has been met on his part with deception and misrepresentation".
    In 1881, Keely met Clara Jessup Bloomfield Moore, the wealthy widow of a Philadelphia industrialist who had the year before established the Bloomfield Moore art collection.
    More Details Hide Details Mrs Moore became acquainted with Keely through her interest in scientific subjects, and remained his friend and patron up to the time of his death. She invested $100,000 plus a monthly salary of $250 (around $2.2 million and $5400/month in today's values so that he could devote his entire time and energy to the perfection of his motor and widely advocated him and his work, producing many articles and books. Her family did not approve of her assuming obligations which they believed the company should fulfill under its contract with Keely. She made an arrangement with Keely on 12 April 1890 to furnish him with an additional $2,000 a month for his household and shop expenses and for instruments of research, which was to expire when he had gained sufficient control of his unknown force to enable him to resume his work under the direction of the management of the company upon a provisional engine. This arrived in December 1890, when Mrs Bloomfield Moore handed over to the Directors bills that had been presented since the expiration of Mr. Keely's contract with her.
  • 1878
    Age 40
    Today, Philadelphia has forgotten all about its infamous resident. Even Keely's old house has completely disappeared and the site is now a private parking lot for the property next door. A model of Keely's engine was in the collection of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and an "Etheric Force Machine" of his dating from 1878 is in the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vermont.
    More Details Hide Details Keely still has supporters, who continue to claim that he was framed. Dale Pond's Was Keely a Fraud? argues against the idea that Keely was a fraud. Keely's theories form the basis of Sympathetic Vibratory Physics which is detailed within the SVPwiki where the bulk of his found writings are presented for study. Keely's theories were featured prominently in the 1998 book Gods of Eden by Andrew Collins, in relation to the theoretical use of SVP-based devices as systems of levitation. Note: In 2005 Jeff and Rita Behary found the original glass plate negatives of the Keely Motor taken by Thomas Burton Kinraide in his Jamaica Plain home Ravenscroft. They show the contents of the Keely Motor and are the last known photos of the motor ever taken. Kinraide discovered evidence of plain fraud within the motor but did not wish this information to be published because Keely was a close friend and he did not wish to further tarnish his name in the press. The photos can be found here.
  • 1875
    Age 37
    The New York Times reported in June 1875 that Keely's new motive power was generated from cold water and air and evolved into a vapor "more powerful than steam, and considerably more economical".
    More Details Hide Details It reported that Keely refused to disclose what the vapor was or how it was generated until he had taken out patents in "all the countries of the globe which issue patent rights" which was estimated would cost around $30,000. Keely said that the discovery of this new energy source was accidental. He said that the apparatus by which it was generated was called a "generator" or "multiplicator", from where it was then passed into a "receiver" and from there to the cylinders of a steam engine. The "generator" was reported as being about, made of Austrian gunmetal in one piece, and holding about 10 or 12 gallons of water. Its inside was made up of cylindrical chambers connected by pipes and fitted with stopcocks and valves. The "receiver" or "reservoir" was about long by in diameter and connected to the "generator" by a diameter pipe. Keely claimed that his apparatus would generate his "vapor" from water solely by mechanical means without using any chemicals and claimed to be able to produce 2,000 psi in 5 seconds.
  • 1874
    Age 36
    On November 10, 1874, Keely gave a demonstration of an "etheric generator" to a small group of people in Philadelphia.
    More Details Hide Details Keely blew into a nozzle for half a minute, then poured five gallons of tap water into the same nozzle. After some adjustments a pressure gauge indicated pressures of 10,000 psi which Keely said was evidence that the water had been disintegrated and a mysterious vapor had been liberated in the generator, capable of powering machinery. In subsequent demonstrations he kept changing the terminology he used, to "vibratory-generator" to a "hydro-pneumatic-pulsating-vacu-engine" to "quadruple negative harmonics". It was later reported that the witnesses of the demonstration were so impressed that they formed a stock company, purchased patent rights for the six New England states, and paid $50,000 in cash for their share in the invention.
  • 1872
    Age 34
    In 1872, Keely invited scientists to attend a demonstration at his laboratory at 1422 North Twentieth Street Philadelphia, of a machine which he asserted was motivated by a new and hitherto unknown force.
    More Details Hide Details Keely announced that he had discovered a principle for power production based on the musical vibrations of tuning forks and that music could resonate with atoms or with the aether. Public interest was aroused and within a few months the Keely Motor Company was formed in New York, with a capital of $5,000,000., equivalent to $95 million in 2013. Keely delivered descriptions of the supposed principles of his process on various occasions. In 1884, following the demonstration of his "Vaporic gun": Following a demonstration in June 1885: In the 19th century most physicists believed that all of space was filled with a medium called the "Luminiferous aether" (or "ether"), a hypothetical substance which was thought necessary for the transmission of electromagnetic waves and to the propagation of light, which was believed to be impossible in "empty" space. In 1887, an experiment was performed by Albert A. Michelson and Edward W. Morley to attempt to confirm the existence of the ether. The experiment, named the Michelson-Morley experiment after the two scientists, shocked the scientific community by giving results which implied the ether's non-existence. This result was later used by Albert Einstein to refute the ether's existence, and to develop special relativity.
  • 1869
    Age 31
    The result of the inspection was to make known only whether the present Keely motor was or was not the same apparatus that he was alleged to have assigned to Wilson in 1869.
    More Details Hide Details On 18 September it was revealed that Keely had not yet obeyed the court order, despite the time span having been increased to 60 days, and a lawyer representing Bennett Wilson said he believed Keely never would comply with the order and that he had never intended to do so.
    Wilson alleged that he had only recently become aware that the machine called the "Keely motor" was the same as the one constructed in 1869 and assigned to him.
    More Details Hide Details He asked for an injunction restraining Keely from removing the machine or altering its construction or mode of operation, and requested that an order also be made compelling Keely to exhibit to the complainant all models, machines, and drawings of the invention referred to in the assignments to Wilson, and that an order be made compelling Keely to fully disclose the invention and the mode of constructing and operating it. On 7 April a formal order was made directing Bennett Wilson, his attorney, and four experts, to make a full and detailed inspection of the Keely motor, its mode of construction, and principle of operation within 30 days. The four experts were named as Dr. Charles M. Cresson, Analytical Chemist of City and State Boards of Health; Thomas Shaw, mechanical engineer; William D. Marks, civil engineer and Professor of Dynamical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania; and Jacob Naylor, iron founder and President of the Eighth National Bank.
  • 1837
    Born in 1837.
    More Details Hide Details
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
All data offered is derived from public sources. Spokeo does not verify or evaluate each piece of data, and makes no warranties or guarantees about any of the information offered. Spokeo does not possess or have access to secure or private financial information. Spokeo is not a consumer reporting agency and does not offer consumer reports. None of the information offered by Spokeo is to be considered for purposes of determining any entity or person's eligibility for credit, insurance, employment, housing, or for any other purposes covered under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)