Events leading up to the Discovery of the Dissociation of Water.

In all probability this is what happened.

Reasoning that the poor performance of his little motor was due to rogue frequencies generated by the structure itself he decided to improve the device by tuning all components parts to compatible harmonics.

In later life he continually talks about the absolute necessity of doing this so we are still on safe ground.

The next step was to find out the optimum frequencies for such a device.

It would not be necessary to build his motor to study the optimum frequencies involved, researching a single resonator would suffice. I believe he started his investigations with a device not unlike this one.

Resonator with electrically driven tuning fork

By placing a manometric flame in front of the resonator the sound vibration coming from the instrument became visible.

The results would have been disappointing and inconclusive.

In this apparatus the tuning fork sits in front of the resonator opening and the vibrations from the tuning fork would have dominated the vibrations coming from the resonant chamber.

Keely knew all there is to know about tuning forks, the object of his study was the behaviour of the sound waves inside the resonator.

There really is only one way to do this with the instruments of the time and it would not have taken Keely long to realise how to go about it.

By tuning two identical resonators to the same pitch, as to cavity frequency and mass frequency both being connected on a stand with a metal rod tuned to the same frequency, or one harmonically compatible it was possible to excite the first resonator transfer the vibrations mechanically to the second the same conditions would exist in both cavities. That would make it possible to study the waveforms in the second cavity without the dominating vibrations from the tuning fork.

This is not a farfetched speculation since all his later devices follow the same pattern, whether he calls the exciting device his transmitter or liberator or something else.

It is at this stage that he started to prefer a vertical arrangement of components rather than the traditional horizontal, presumably to keep unwanted frequencies at bay by having as few points as possible in contact with other resonating structures, such as a bench.

The way I see this arrangement is something like this.

This would have enabled him to study the sound phenomenon occurring inside the resonator with as little interference as possible.

That would not have held his attention for long.

As the next experiment he would have tried to investigate more complex sounds, such as a harmonic chord and study the effects of that on the body under investigation.

The only way he could achieve this was by mounting three resonating bodies in front of the first cavity resonator in place of the tuning fork.

This required re-designing his device. He acquired a ring of metal, carefully tuned it to a compatible frequency with the three resonators so mounted inside, them being a tuning fork, a tonometer bar and a Chladni plate, mounted his cavity resonator on the top, put it onto a suitably tuned vertical stand and now he could produce a complex waveform inside another cavity resonator induced by resonance and observe the waveform inside that resonator by placing a manometric flame above it.

His vibrating transmitter was born.

Fanciful speculation, I hear many of you say at this point.


The device existed, maybe still exists. There are a few photographs of it though no-one I know of has ever mentioned its purpose.

He refers to it in his writings as the 'vibrating transmitter with the telephonic head'.

The description is an allusion to the shape of the resonator mounted on top of the ring, which bears a resemblance to an earpiece of a contemporary telephone.

Why he chose a conical resonator for this device is unclear to me, maybe by giving it the shape of a megaphone he tried to amplify it's output.

Later, when he had learned to produce the wave patterns he needed inside a resonator cavity he discarded the shape in favour of a spherical arrangement.

But, no more talk, here it is.

Keely's first "Compound Transmitter"

Notice the conical resonator on top of the ring, the tonometer bar inside the metal ring topmost, followed by the tuning fork in the middle and the Chladni plate at the bottom.

It is here worthy of note that tonometers, tuning forks and Chladni plates were standard items in every acoustics laboratory at that time.

For photos of contemporary examples click on the words.

The device must have worked well.

Here are some more photographs where his device is featured, a sure sign that this was his main transmitter for a while until superseded by later designs.In later designs he places his resonators inside a hollow metal sphere.

There would have been good reason to do so. the open ring with the resonators inside would have been far more likely to pick up rogue frequencies from the environment, a problem he appeared to have overcome with his later arrangement.

I have to apologise here for the poor quality of the pictures, mostly poor resolution JPG's I have plucked from various web sites. If someone could let me have some better quality scans of his equipment it would be most helpful.

But, back to our subject. How did this lead to the disintegration of water allegedly by accident, or was he doing something else that he never talked about?

I don't believe he did something else. By following in a logical and methodical manner the same path of research we will see how it leads to that particular discovery and why no-one known has been able to duplicate it.

O.K. so he had his compound transmitter. In today's terms we would call it an acoustic waveform generator. What now?

Since the whole idea of building the thing was to study complex waveforms and their behaviour inside a cavity resonator he would have done just that.

The arrangement of the various elements would have looked something like this:

Now he is looking at complex waveforms inside a resonator. So, what? And how does water get into the equation?

This question puzzled me for some time until I remembered something from when I was a boy.

Toys and musical instruments were scarce in early post-war Germany. I loved both. An old man told me that if I collected a few bottles he would make me a musical toy. When I had a number of bottles he suspended them on strings from a broom handle resting horizontally on two timber forks cut from a tree branch and staked vertically in the ground. He then filled the bottles with various levels of water and bingo a sort of xylophone. The bottles when struck with a hammer made different notes and it was possible to play simple tunes on the thing. As the water evaporated they would get out of tune and required retuning by adding a bit more to various bottles. The process of tuning was so tedious I soon tired of the device and did something else.

Of course, that was it!

Keely would have done just that to study the patterns caused by minor changes in pitch.

For his purpose an eyedropper would have been ideal. We know from his later experiments and writings that he never used more than a few drops of water at a time. I don't know how many times he made his experiments. Judging by his tenacity in pursuing failed experiments until they paid off, as commented upon by many of his contemporaries, perhaps a thousand times or more.

Eventually he struck the right combination. The water dissociated into H2 O2, a highly explosive gas, the manometric flame at the top ignited it and BOOM, his first taste of "etheric vapour".

After that there was no stopping him. I don't think he knew for quite some time what he had done, but of one thing he was convinced. He had 'liberated' an enormous amount of energy using sound.

Next Chapter:


Hans von Lieven, copyright 2007