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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/725

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

has been proved to be an impostor, and the miracle has fallen to the ground. One of the most remarkable cases of the kind is furnished by the history of the Keeley motor, the absolutely fraudulent character of which has lately been brought to light. Keeley professed to transcend all the known laws of physics and mechanics, and he talked a jargon which all acknowledged to be unintelligible, but the unintelligibility of which was ascribed by his devotees to the fact that he was really working outside of known laws, and could not be expected to translate his ideas into the language of everyday science. In this way what was really an adjunct to the imposture he was practicing was counted as a proof of the truth of his ideas and the reality of his work. Yet now we know that the whole business was a matter of hidden tubes and wires and pulleys and double axles, one concealed within the other, with a water motor hidden under the floor. Thus it was that the "ætheric vibrations" and all the other mysterious phenomena were produced. We remember a sermon that was preached some years ago by an earnest divine, who professed to see in the alleged effects produced by Keeley an explanation of the miracle of the casting down of the walls of Jericho. Keeley would take his harmonium and, striking a certain chord, would cause his motor to revolve. In like manner Joshua with his trumpets and pitchers made precisely the kind of noise required to produce the ætheric vibrations necessary to level the walls of the beleaguered city—a wonderful case of the most advanced science coming to the support of a venerable religious tradition! Unfortunately, the walls of Jericho must now be got down in some other way, since it is proved that when Keeley worked the harmonium he also worked the bulb of an air tube placed under his foot in the floor. But Keeley was so honest a man, so devoted to his profound researches, so true a type of the indomitable experimenter, that it was impossible for his friends and admirers to doubt him, even when he spoke of "the sympathetic negative attraction of the triune polar stream."

The lesson of it all is—investigate! investigate! investigate! The more honest a man is, the more he will court investigation. It is to the credit of humanity perhaps that so much reliance is placed upon estimates of personal character in these extraordinary cases; but where belief is demanded for anything that is absolutely beyond comprehension, character should be put out of court altogether, and the one question should be, What are the facts? In the Keeley case, unfortunately, men of science as well as others were among the deluded. They should have suspected fraud; at least they should have insisted on making such investigations as a suspicion of fraud would have suggested; and, if they were not allowed to make them, they should have refused all countenance to the business. As it is, many ignorant persons who lost money through Keeley's imposture will very properly cast blame on the presumedly competent mechanicians and physicists who went through the form of examining Keeley 's apparatus and afterward spoke, however guardedly, of his extraordinary results. As an object lesson in regard to the need for uncompromising skepticism when facts which can not be accounted for on understood principles are presented for acceptance, the history of the Keeley motor should not soon be forgotten.