Gravity Research Foundation

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Monument to Babson in center of New Boston, N.H.

The Gravity Research Foundation, established in 1948 by businessman Roger Babson (founder of Babson College),[1] was an organization designed to find ways to implement gravitational shielding.[2] It closed in the late 1960s, although it has maintained an annual contest rewarding essays by scientific researchers on gravity-related topics.[3] It is mentioned on stone monuments located at more than a dozen American universities.


Rauscher indicated Thomas Edison had suggested the creation of the Gravity Research Foundation to Babson.[4] He established it in several scattered buildings in the small town of New Boston, New Hampshire,[5] which Babson chose because he thought it was far enough from big cities to survive a nuclear war. Babson even put up a sign declaring New Boston to be the safest town in North America if World War III came, but town fathers toned it down to say just that New Boston was a safe place.

In an essay called Gravity - Our Enemy Number One, Babson indicated that his wish to overcome gravity dated from the childhood drowning of his sister. "She was unable to fight gravity, which came up and seized her like a dragon and brought her to the bottom," he wrote.[6]

The foundation held occasional conferences that drew such people as Clarence Birdseye of frozen-food fame and Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the helicopter.[7] Sometimes, attendees sat in chairs with their feet higher than their heads, to counterbalance gravity.[8] Most of the foundation's work however, involved sponsoring essays by researchers on gravity-related topics.[9] It had only a couple of employees in New Boston.

The physical Gravity Research Foundation disappeared some time after Babson's death in 1967. Its only remnant in New Boston is a granite slab in a traffic island that celebrates the foundation's "active research for antigravity and a partial gravity insulator." The building that held the foundation's meetings has long held a restaurant, and for a time had a bar called Gravity Tavern, although it has been renamed.[10] As of 2013 it is still administered out of Wellesley, Massachusetts by George Rideout, Jr., son of the foundation's original director. The essay award lives on, offering prizes of up to $4,000.

Over time, the foundation shed its crankish air, turning its attention from trying to block gravity to trying to understand it. The annual essay prize has drawn respected researchers, including physicist Stephen Hawking, who won in 1971, mathematician/author Roger Penrose, who won in 1975, and astrophysicist and Nobel laureate George Smoot, who won in 1993. Other notable award winners include Jacob Bekenstein, Sidney Coleman, Bryce DeWitt, Julian Schwinger (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1965), Dennis Sciama, Robert Wald, John Archibald Wheeler and Frank Wilczek (Nobel Prize in Physics, 2004).[11]


In the 1960s, stone monuments, apparently paid for by Babson to spread word about the Foundation, were placed on a number of college campuses. The monuments are inscribed with a variety of similar sayings, 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." and "It is to remind students of the blessings forthcoming when science determines what gravity is, how it works, and how it may be controlled."

College that received monuments include:

Hobart College's "H-Book" contains a description of the circumstances surrounding the placement of its Gravity Monument: "The location of the stone on campus was linked to a gift to the Colleges of 'gravity grant' stocks, now totaling more than $1 million, from Roger Babson, the founder of Babson College. The eccentric Babson was intrigued by the notion of anti-gravity and inclined to further scientific research in this area. The Colleges used these funds to help construct Rosenberg Hall in 1994. Two trees that shade the stone are said to be direct descendants of Newton’s famous apple tree."

The stone at Colby College was once in front of the Keyes Building on the main academic quadrangle but was moved to a more obscure location near the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center. Students would often knock it over in an ironic testament to gravity's power. At Tufts, the monument is the site of an "inauguration ceremony"[12] for students who receive Ph.D.s in cosmology, in which a thesis advisor drops an apple on the student's head.

Award Winning Essays by Year[edit]

Competition Year Prize Winning Essays Authors Published in
1st Prize Information conservation is fundamental: recovering the lost information in Hawking radiation Baocheng Zhang,
Qing-Yu Cai,
Ming-Sheng Zhan,
Li You
Int. J. Mod. Phys. D
2nd Prize What is the shape of the initial state? Nishant Agarwal,
R. Holman,
Andrew J. Tolley
3rd Prize What happens at the horizon? Samir D. Mathur
4th Prize On negative mass Jonathan Belletête
5th Prize Dark energy with rigid voids versus relativistic voids alone Boudewijn F. Roukema
1st Prize Can effects of quantum gravity be observed in the cosmic microwave background? Claus Kiefer,
Manuel Krämer
Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 21, No. 11, Oct 2012
2nd Prize What can the information paradox tell us about the early universe? Samir D. Mathur
3rd Prize The unbearable beingness of light — dressing and undressing photons in black hole spacetimes Timothy J. Hollowood,
Graham M. Shore
4th Prize Holographic spacetime Tom Banks
5th Prize Secret life of the spacetime T. Padmanabhan
1st Prize Stimulated creation of quanta during inflation and the observable universe Ivan Agullo,
Leonard Parker
Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 20, No. 14, Dec 2011
2nd Prize Relative locality: a deepening of the relativity principle Giovanni Amelino-Camelia,
Laurent Freidel,
Jerzy Kowalski-Glikman,
Lee Smolin
3rd Prize The value of the cosmological constant John D. Barrow,
Douglas J. Shaw
4th Prize Effective information loss outside the horizon Samir D. Mathur
5th Prize Quantum gravity and dark matter Chiu Man Ho
Djordje Minic,
Y. Jack Ng
1st Prize Building up space–time with quantum entanglement Mark Van Raamsdonk Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 19, No. 14, Dec 2010
2nd Prize Membrane paradigm realized? Samir D. Mathur
3rd Prize The dangers of extremes Donald Marolf
4th Prize The necessity of torsion in gravity Richard T. Hammond
5th Prize Conditions for spontaneous homogenization of the universe Krzysztof Bolejko,
William R. Stoeger
1st Prize Instability of the black hole horizon with respect to electromagnetic excitations Alexander Burinskii Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 18, No. 14, Dec 2009
2nd Prize On vacuum density, the initial singularity and dark energy Saulo Carneiro,
Reza Tavakol
3rd Prize Gravitation, thermodynamics, and the bound on viscosity Shahar Hod
4th Prize Inflation, quantum fields, and CMB anisotropies Iván Agulló,
José Navarro-Salas,
Gonzalo J. Olmo,
Leonard Parker
5th Prize Signatures of an emergent gravity from black hole entropy Cenalo Vaz
1st Prize Gravity: the inside story T. Padmanabhan Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 17, No. 13n14, Dec 2008
2nd Prize Noncommutative gravity, a "no strings attached" quantum–classical duality, and the cosmological constant puzzle T. P. Singh
3rd Prize On the physical interpretation of asymptotically flat gravitational fields Carlos Kozameh,
Ezra T. Newman,
Gilberto Silva-Ortigoza
4th Prize Quantum field theory in curved space–time, the operator product expansion, and dark energy Stefan Hollands,
Robert M. Wald
5th Prize The delocalized effective degrees of freedom of a black hole at low frequencies Barak Kol
1st Prize Symmetries, horizons and black hole entropy S. Carlip Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 17, No. 03n04, Mar & Apr 2008
2nd Prize How black holes form in high energy collisions Nemanja Kaloper,
John Terning
3rd Prize Heavy Ion Collisions And Black Hole Dynamics Steven S. Gubser
4th Prize How many black holes fit on the head of a pin? Frederik Denef,
Gregory W. Moore
5th Prize The return of a static universe and the end of cosmology Lawrence M. Krauss,
Robert J. Scherrer
1st Prize Information recovery from black holes Vijay Balasubramanian,
Donald Marolf,
Moshe Rozali
Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 15, No. 12, Dec 2006
2nd Prize Towers of gravitational theories Walter D. Goldberger,
Ira Z. Rothstein
3rd Prize Gravity's immunity from vacuum: the holographic structure of semiclassical action T. Padmanabhan
4th Prize The "dark side" of gravitational experiments Charles D. Hoyle, Jr.
5th Prize Null infinity, H-space and equations of motion Carlos Kozameh,
Ezra T. Newman,
Gilberto Silva-Ortigoza
1st Prize The string coupling accelerates the expansion of the universe John Ellis,
Nikolaos E. Mavromatos,
Dimitri V. Nanopoulos
Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 14, No. 12, Dec 2005
2nd Prize Does inflation provide natural initial conditions for the universe? Sean M. Carroll,
Jennifer Chen
3rd Prize Gravity from local Lorentz violation V. Alan Kostelecký,
Robertus Potting
4th Prize Gravity-wave detectors as probes of extra dimension Chris Clarkson,
Roy Maartens
5th Prize Classical and quantum general relativity: a new paradigm Rodolfo Gambini,
Jorge Pullin
1st Prize A secret tunnel through the horizon Maulik Parikh Int. J. Mod. Phys. D, Vol. 13, No. 10, Dec 2004
2nd Prize Probing gravitational interactions of elementary particles Jonathan L. Feng,
Arvind Rajaraman,
Fumihiro Takayama
3rd Prize Charge conjugation and lense–thirring effect: a new asymmetry D. V. Ahluwalia-Khalilova
4th Prize The quantum gravitational black hole is neither black nor white T. P. Singh,
Cenalo Vaz

See also[edit]

  • Louis Witten (theoretical physicist associated with the foundation)


  1. ^ "Sir Isaac Babson" (1948, August, 23). Newsweek, 32(8), p. 47.
  2. ^ Babson, R. W. (1950). Chapter XXXV - Playing with Gravity, Actions and Reactions [Second Revised Edition]. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers [1] Page over to Chapter XXXV for Roger W. Babson's description of the Gravity Research Foundation.
  3. ^ Witten, L. (1998). Introductory remarks on the Gravity Research Foundation on its fiftieth anniversary. In N. Dadhich & J. Marlikar (Ed.). Gravitation and Relativity: At the Turn of the Millennium [p. 375]. 15th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation. Pune, India: Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics. ISBN 81-900378-3-8
  4. ^ Valone, T. (Ed.) (2001, January). Electrogravitics Systems: Reports on a New Propulsion Methodology [p. 4]. Washington, DC: Integrity Research Institute.
  5. ^ Mooallem, J. (2007, October). A curious attraction. Harper's Magazine, 315(1889), pp. 84-91.
  6. ^ See Appendix Intro. 3: Gravity – Our Enemy Number One. In Harry Collins (2004). Gravity's Shadow: The Search for Gravitational Waves. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-11378-4
  7. ^ Kaiser, D. (2000). Chapter 10 - Roger Babson and the Rediscovery of General Relativity. Making Theory: Producing Physics and Physicists in Postwar America [Ph.D. Dissertation]. Harvard University, pp. 567-594.
  8. ^ Article on town website
  9. ^ "Trouble with Gravity, The" (1950, January, 2). Time, 55, p. 54.
  10. ^ Union-Leader Moly Stark name returns
  11. ^ GRF Award Winning Essays
  12. ^ Tufts "inauguration ceremony'

External links[edit]

Links about monument stones[edit]