Gravity Research Foundation

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

The Gravity Research Foundation is an organization established in 1948 by businessman Roger Babson (founder of Babson College)[1] to find ways to implement gravitational shielding.[2] It holds an annual contest rewarding essays by scientific researchers on gravity-related topics.[3] The contest, which awards prizes of up to $4,000, has been won by at least four people who later won the Nobel Prize in physics.

The foundation held conferences and conducted operations in New Boston, New Hampshire through the late 1960s, but that aspect of its operation ended following Babson's death in 1967.

It is mentioned on stone monuments, donated by Babson, at more than a dozen American universities.


Thomas Edison apparently suggested the creation of the Gravity Research Foundation to Babson,[4] who 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 merely 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, Gerard 't Hooft (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1999), Robert Wald, John Archibald Wheeler and Frank Wilczek (Nobel Prize in Physics, 2004).[11]


In the 1960s, Babson gave grants to a number of colleges that were accompanied by stone monuments.[12] 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"[13] for students who receive Ph.D.s in cosmology, in which a thesis advisor drops an apple on the student's head.

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. ^ Popular Science: "Gravity's Sworn Enemy"
  13. ^ Tufts "inauguration ceremony'

External links[edit]

Links about monument stones[edit]