Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

January 2009

Gravity

A stone monument on the campus of Middlebury College contains the following inscription:

         This monument has been

         erected by the Gravity Research Foundation

         Roger W. Babson founder

         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

         1960

That stone is one of more than a dozen found at colleges across the country, courtesy of the Gravity Research Foundation. Each college, in return for promoting the gravity-awareness rocks, received a gift of stock. Colby College in Maine, for instance, reportedly received $12,500 worth of stock in 1960. The shares of American Agricultural Chemical Company later became DuPont. There was a stipulation, of course, that the stock not be sold for at least 35 years. In 2005 the stock was worth $2.7 million!

Roger Babson, founder of Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., was famous for calling the 1929 stock market crash. A graduate of MIT, Babson applied Newton’s theories on gravity to the stock market (“What goes up must come down!” being the essence of Babson’s take on Newton’s theories). Although quite possibly right for the wrong reason, Babson prospered, and at the urging of his friend Thomas Edison, founded the Gravity Research Foundation. 

Babson thought that if enough great minds could concentrate on gravity, then a substance — perhaps a paint — could be applied to the underside of planes to keep them from crashing or on people’s shoes to keep them from falling, and the list apparently went on and on. While no one has cracked the gravity code, an essay contest on gravity is sponsored annually by the Foundation. Top prize: $6,000. Kooks need not enter, as the prize typically goes to folks named Hawking or scientists associated with CERN (the European laboratory for particle physics).

Hopefully Babson’s stock gifts that grew for 35 years haven’t now fallen back to or below their original values.