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Johann Ernst Elias Bessler is born in or around the village of Zittau, Germany.

Bessler travels extensively and learns many trades. He earns a living crafting and applying medical cures.

Bessler creates his professional name, Orffyre, by transposing the letters in his name using the 'albam' method. A similar method is to arrange the alphabet in a circle and transpose opposite letters - B becomes O, E becomes R, etc. Bessler then Latinised Orffyre to Orffyreus, as was fashionable at the time.

Bessler attempts to discover perpetual motion, claiming success after 10 years of study and experiments.


First public exhibition is on 6th June 1712 at the inventors home in Gera, Germany.
His machine is a wheel about 6.5 feet diameter and 4 inches thick and it self-rotates at 50 RPM. The wheel is officially tested and certified on 9th October that year.

Bessler offers to sell his secret for the one-off sum of 100,000 Thalers - 20,000 English Pounds.

Gartner begins campaign to discredit Bessler.

Bessler destroys his wheel and moves to Draschwitz.


Bessler's second wheel is unveiled at the inventors home in Draschwitz, Germany. It is 9.3 feet diameter and 6 inches thick and rotates at 50 RPM. This larger and more powerful wheel is designed to counter critisism that his previous wheel was too small and weak to be of practical value.

Gartner, Borlach and Wagner intensify their campaign to discredit Bessler, publishing a pamphlet that depicts the wheel driven through hollowed-out support posts.

Bessler destroys his wheel and moves to Merseburg.


Third wheel exhibited at the inventors home in Merseburg, Germany. This wheel is 11.15 feet diameter and 11.15 inches thick and rotates at 46 RPM unloaded. This is the first of Bessler's dual-direction wheels, designed to counter critisism that his machines are somehow wound up with a spring.

Official examination and tests are conducted on 31st October, including a translocation of the wheel to prove the posts are not hollowed-out. Official certificate of approval issued.

Gartner, Borlach and Wagner continue to make accusations of fraud despite inability to explain or replicate Bessler's demonstrations.


Karl, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, offers to sponsor Bessler and his invention. To receive patronage and protection, Bessler must prove his wheel is genuine by revealing the secret to Karl. In return, Karl agrees to give Bessler 4000 Thalers and promises not to use or disclose the secret until a successful sale is made. After seeing inside the wheel, Karl is convinced and offers Bessler the position of Commercial Councillor with protection, lodgings, income and the means to begin construction of a new, larger wheel.

Bessler moves to Weissenstein Castle, after destroying his wheel at Merseburg.


Bessler's fourth and largest wheel is built in a room at Weissenstein Castle. It is 12 feet diameter and 18 inches thick and, like his previous wheel at Merseburg, does not require restraint when at rest and accelerates in either direction from a light push start.

Bessler requests a long-duration test, with the wheel sealed and secured under lock and guard. This test runs for 54 days, from 12th November until the 4th January 1718. He also performs a translocation of the wheel to prove there is no hidden axle drive. An official certificate is issued to the inventor confirming the circumstances of the tests and the favourable results.

The wheel is intensely examined, tested and scrutinised by many notable scientists, engineers and officials over the next 4 years.


Karl donates a house to Bessler, with garden and meadow attached, in the nearby town of Karlshafen.

On 17th August, Bessler destroys his wheel at Weissenstein Castle.

Bessler moves himself and his family from Weissenstein Castle to Karlshafen.

There is no information on any further wheels exhibited by Bessler but there is suggestion that he built a smaller uni-direction type wheel in later years.


On 28th November Bessler's maid, Anne Rosine Mauersbergerin, testifies to authorities that Bessler's wheels had all been turned manually by Bessler, his wife, his brother Gottfried and herself. She claimed the turning was carried out by a small crank in an adjoining room. 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. The maids accusations were discredited and the charges were dismissed. A long and difficult relationship existed between Mauersbergerin and Bessler and there is suggestion that she did not act alone in her accusations (Gartner). Bessler's reputation is permenantly damaged.

Bessler destroys all documents, drawings and models that describe and prove his secret, in fear of it being stolen upon his arrest.


On 23rd March Karl, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, dies age 76.


Bessler announces three new inventions: A fountain which leaps continuously from still waters; A large musical organ which plays by itself; An 'Orffyrean ship', or special preservation device, designed to save lives and goods at sea in the event of shipwreck.


Bessler is commissioned to design and erect a large windmill project in Fürstenburg.

While working on the upper levels of the building, on 30th November, Bessler falls to his death at age 65.

Bessler's widow offers his possessions to the state.