John Adolphus Etzler

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John Adolphus Etzler (1791-1846?) was a German-born American technological utopianist. Along with civil engineer John A. Roebling, he emigrated to Pittsburgh in 1831.[1]

In 1833 he published his best-known work, a prospectus titled The Paradise within the Reach of all Men. It outlined detailed, visionary plans to harness the energy of wind, water and sun to benefit mankind.[2]

He believed that contemporary technology was sufficient, if only slightly developed and astutely applied, to bring about an earthly paradise of effortless plenty within a matter of a few years. He occasionally was able to gain sufficient financial backing and supporters to make a go at turning this dream into reality. In particular, his hopes for a revolution in agriculture rested on the "Satellite," a general-purpose cultivation tool that was to be propelled using ropes to transmit power from a stationary source that was powered in turn by wind. The device proved impractical, and his partly and poorly implemented plans to colonize the American tropics failed, with loss of life and bitter recriminations. Etzler's spirit was crushed, and he disappears from the records. Nevertheless, his vision of a world freed from labor through automated devices remains with us, and may yet find a more complete realization.

John Adolphus Etzler


  • The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery: An Address to all intelligent men, in two parts (1833)
  • Machinery (1833)
  • The New World or Mechanical System (1841)
  • Description of the Naval Automaton, Invented by J. A. Etzler (1841?2?)
  • Dialogue on Etzler's Paradise: Between Messrs. Clear, Flat, Dunce, and Grudge (1842)
  • Emigration to the Tropical World, for the Melioration of All Classes of People of All Nations (1844)
  • Two Visions of J. A. Etzler (1844)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thoreau, Henry David; Lewis Hyde (2002). The essays of Henry D. Thoreau. Macmillan. p. 321.
  2. ^ Ferkiss, Victor (1933). Nature, Technology, and Society: The Cultural Roots of the Current Environmental Crisis. NYU Press. p. 80. ISBN 0-8147-2617-8.

External links[edit]


  • Steven Stoll: The Great Delusion. A Mad Inventor, Death in the Tropics, and the Utopian Origins of Economic Growth. New York: Hill and Wang, 2009. ISBN 0809051729.