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The Victorian who invented the ice-rink and sold perpetual motion to the US Navy
On 26th February 1881 Professor John Gamgee filed a patent application. Gamgee called his invention the ‘Zeromotor’ and he had convinced the Chief Engineer of the US Navy that it would enable ships to operate without fuel, drawing energy from the sea instead. It was the first and last time the United States Patent Office granted a patent for a perpetual motion machine.
The career path of this maverick inventor would be impossible today. Born and raised in Florence, he was initially an outspoken and forward thinking veterinarian. He ran his own college and organised the first ever international veterinary conference. During the Cattle Plague of 1865 his controversial opinions on contagion and germ theory made him the target of nationwide abuse and ridicule. Although ultimately proven correct he was financially broken and after bankruptcy went to America to begin a new career in engineering.
At times extremely persuasive, Gamgee had a personality that inspired admiration and hatred in equal measure. After the creation of the Zeromotor, his life entered a slow downward curve, with his later years marked by involvement in forgery, suicide, a libel case and a second bankruptcy.
Celebrating some of the oddities and strange happenings that have taken place alongside the more momentous events of space exploration.
Find out how the Americans missed the chance to launch the first satellite, and how a Cuban Cow was the unsuspecting victim of a rocket mishap. Discover why the Russians presented the US coastguard with an Apollo capsule and where you could ride the scariest zip-wire in the world.
Sometimes bizarre, often ridiculous and frequently surprising ‘To Boldly Go’ presents twenty tales of what can happen when people set out to go where no one has gone before.