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Roger Babson: Part III of the Holiday Serial

Back to part I.
Today’s episode moves slightly up in time and centers on Roger Babson.  Babson was an investment entrepreneur who graduated from MIT in 1898.  He made his millions by publishing an investment report that analyzed the stock market in terms of Newton’s Laws of Mechanics.  His method wasn’t quite as loopy as it sounds.  He used Newton’s laws as analogies or metaphors to describe sound investment techniques.

Babson’s study of the stock market enabled him to pull the majority of his money out of the market a few months prior to the great crash of 1929.  Babson consequently safeguarded the majority of his millions from the Great Depression.

Babson was however, struck by two great tragedies.  His sister and one of his grandsons both drowned in separate incidents.  Reasoning that gravity was the root cause of these drownings, Babson used part of his fortune to create the Gravity Research Foundation.  The foundation’s main objective in the early days was to find a way to counter the ill effects of gravity, ideally by finding a way to turn it off, anti-gravity.  The groups members counted many of Babson’s industrial associates including Thomas Edison and Clarence Birdseye of Birdseye frozen foods.  At one point, the foundation posessed a collection of several hundred bird specimens because Thomas Edison was convinced that a bird’s ability to fly was based on some anti-gravity compound created by the bird’s body.

Another member of the foundation was Agnew Bahnson Jr. who was introduced in the previous installment.  Bahnson’s interest was spurred by his desire to be the first man in space.

In the 1960′s the foundation placed stone monuments at a number of universities through tout the United STates.  These monuments were often associated with large monetary contributions to the university to fund their science programs.  The stone monuments had sayings carved into them such as “It is to remind students of the blessings forthcoming when a semi-insulator is discovered in order to harness gravity as a free power and reduce airplane accidents.

The only lasting legacy of the foundation is a gravity essay contest.  When the contest was started in the late 1940′s, the announcement read, “awards are to be given for anti-gravity devices, for partial insulators , reflectors, or absorbers of gravity, or for some substance that can be arranged by gravity to throw off heat.”  Not surprisingly, not a single serious scientist entered the essay contest for its first three years.  One eventually would and that would make all the difference, but that’s another part of our story.

 

 

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