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"I SHOULD THINK WITH YOU THAT YOU HAD DISCOVERED PERPETUAL MOTION" ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON. Autograph Letter Signed, "Rob'tR Livingston," to botanist Amos Eaton, discussing experiments relating to a perpetual motion machine. 2 1/4 pages, small 4to, written on a folded sheet; folds, address panel and docketing on terminal page. Clermont, 10 April 1807
". . . I think your experiment shows that [what] I have proposed will not succeed at least with weak magnets[. W]hat it might do with more powerful ones, aided by a fly, is perhaps yet doubtful[. T]hat yours however bids fairer for success I frankly acknowledge & think the object sufficiently interesting to merrit an experiment[.] I do not myself see any radical defect in it. But experience alone can determine whether it has power sufficient to over come friction, & cut off magnetic communication, . . . this . . . must depend upon accuracy & delicacy of the construction of the machine. Could this be effected, I should think with you that you had discovered perpetual motion. It remains to be considered whether it could be applied to any useful purpose since the power would at all events be small, and perhaps the irregularity of the force (for magnetism is by no means equal at all times or in all places) would prevent its being applied to timepieces with effect & yet perhaps this is the only use to which so small a power could be applied but it would at all events be a curious & interesting discovery."
Robert R. Livingston (1747-1813) served as a delegate from New York to the Continental Congress from 1775-1777 and again from 1779-1781 and served on the committee which drafted the Declaration (but was recalled to New York before signing it); he also served as the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs until 1783, and in 1788 he served as a delegate to the Ratifying Convention, later serving as Minister to France at the time of the Louisiana Purchase.
From the Collection of William Wheeler III.
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