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Topic: Keely Chronology Stack
Section: Keely, Obituary
Table of Contents to this Topic

11/26/1898 - Decidedly surprising caution is shown by The Engineering News in discussing the question whether the late JOHN WORRELL KEELY was ingenious only in the exploitation of human credulity, or whether he was an unskilled and ill-taught mechanical genius who had accidentally stumbled into the threshold of one of nature's most mysterious temples. A techinical journal devoted to the exactest of the sciences might be expected to show neither patience with nor consideration for a man like Keely, who for thirty-five years talked an utterly incomprehensible jargon in describing and explaining his machine, and who always insisted on performing his marvels in conditions exactly like those on which the ordinary prestidigitateur depends for success in astonishing his voluntary dupes. Yet The Engineering News calls attention to the facts that Keely stock was "never offered for sale to the general public, with the accompaniment of a prospectus, in the way that most fake enterprises are floated"; that "the money paid into the treasury of the company appears to have nearly all been expended for the carrying on of the experiments," and that "Mr. Keely himself lived in the plainest and most frugal style." It is admitted by the writer of the article that "with one possible exception" - an exception, by the way, that escaped the attention of newspaper men - Keely never permitted competent experts to make such an examination of his apparatus as would remove the strong suspcion of willful fraud. Yet it is asserted, on the other hand, that "those who witnessed his experiments and were competent to judge of them were almost invariably completely nonplused and unable to explain the things they saw according to ordinary physical laws." The same might be said of any juggler's feats. The Engineering News, however does not say it. What it does say, in summing up the matter, is that "Keely's experiments and methods generally had most of the earmarks of a fraud; but it confounded the ablest men who examined his work to tell how it could possibly be accomplished by fraudulent means." And as to the character of the man himself we read: "If Mr. Keely performed his experiments by fraudulent means, he was certainly one of the most clever and ingenious mechanics and electricians who ever lived. If he was a genuine discoverer, he lost the fame that might have been his by his eccentric insistence on secrecy and refusal to submit to investigation." As leniency toward to dead, this may be all very well, but to us it seems like carrying kindness unnecessarily far.
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