John Worton is a Cornwall-based sculptor who has dedicated his life
to a seemingly impossible task: to build a perpetual motion ‘Gravity Wheel’, based on the 300-year-old theories of Dutch polymath Johann Bessler. Together with Jordan Saville, Dominic John has co-directed the film Transforming Gravity, which details Worton’s 15-year ongoing project as he battles alone against the prevailing beliefs of the science, maths and engineering communities.
How did you find out about John Worton’s story?
‘It’s a bit of an odd one...he was my grandad’s workshop assistant 34 years ago! My granddad is a sculptor who still – aged 80 – does a lot of work for churches. To this day John is his favourite assistant.’
What intrigues you about his work?
‘John’s come at the Gravity Wheel problem from more of a sculptural point of view than engineering or science. I think that reflects quite heavily in the way you see the building of the wheel – it’s more of a sculpture than an engineering piece. His wife commutes to London, so he spends all week working by himself on it. What also fascinated Jordan and myself about it was that, if it worked, the possibilities that would come about are just insane. But the way he goes about it is really good: he knows that it’s impossible, but he still wants to persevere.’
Is it true he first became hooked on the idea after someone gave him Johann Bessler’s book in the pub?
‘Yeah. It’s funny to think what would have happened if he hadn’t been handed that book. Because it is such an old mystery and the idea sounds so amazing, you really want to believe in it and hope that Bessler’s theories are right. It’s hard work and it’s lonely too. John has had assistants in the past but it’s so hard for him to keep someone on. And as he says, if it doesn’t work out, he can always sell his machines as art...’