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Revelatory: revealing something otherwise unknown | Fake: a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham


David Jones: In Perpetual Motion

David Jones (20 April 1938 – 19 July 2017) worked under the pseudonym Daedalus, creating drawings and sculptures of fake inventions under his imaginary brand DREADCO. Trained as a scientist, Jones’ extraordinary and idiosyncratic range of skills resulted in a career that unselfconsciously moved into the realms of storytelling, conceptual art, comedy and speculative design. Jones’ fakes were not hidden from view - he wasn’t interested in fooling people. It was vital for his audiences to understand that what he presented to them was something other than it first appeared, so that a revelatory journey of enquiry could begin. 


Daedalus’ output was featured in a regular column that was published from 1964 - 2002 primarily in New Scientist magazine and then in the scientific journal Nature. Featuring drawings and descriptions of fake and speculative inventions (or plausible schemes as he put it), many of Daedalus' fictions now in hindsight seem amusingly prescient. A small selection of original drawings from the column are gathered below, including ideas for 'vertical farming', a milk of amnesia to assist 'forgetting' and designs for an 'auto-confessional' booth.

The key focus of this case study is Jones' brilliant Perpetual Motion Machine sculptures that he designed, made and exhibited internationally. Perpetual Motion is impossible scientifically - the idea that something can be in constant movement without an energy source defies the laws of Physics. Jones took this impossible notion and used it as inspiration for sculptures that looked as if they were in fact in perpetual motion. He then presented the sculptures publicly and challenged the public to work out how the illusion was achieved. The secret has never been revealed to this day.

This digital exhibition features a video of his first Perpetual Motion Machine in storage at the Royal Society in London and a podcast with Sir Martyn Poliakoff - Jones' close friend and protector of 'the secret'. We've also curated a small range of artefacts from Jones' extensive archive including photographs, letters and drawings, here displayed together publicly for the first time.

Live security camera footage of the Perpetual Motion Machine in storage at the Royal Society (Faked). Al Hopwood 2022

MoRF collaborator Patricia Kingori talks to Sir Martyn Poliakoff about David Jones' legacy. 

Selected images documenting different Perpetual Motion Machine sculptures and previous public displays

Selected letters and feedback forms sent to New Scientist and David Jones attempting to explain how the Perpetual Motion Machine works.

Original line drawings by David Jones exploring different designs for Perpetual Motion Machines.

Original drawings of speculative inventions created by David Jones for New Scientist magazine under the pen name Daedalus. 


David Jones placed the secret of how his first Perpetual Motion Machine works in this repurposed tax envelope and gave it to his friend Sir Martyn Poliakoff for safe keeping before he died in July 2017.

This MoRF exhibit was only made possible by the generous loan of materials from the Royal Society. Thanks in particular to Virginia Mills and Ellen Embleton for hosting numerous research trips and for sharing their depth of knowledge about David Jones.

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