Here’s an article from 1919 which spotlights the experiments of a famous Kirkwood resident, Professor Francis E. Nipher (for whom Nipher Middle School is named).
When We Visit Mars – An American Scientist’s Quest
Published in The Canton Times, Wednesday, December 10th, 1919
In the laboratory of Washington University, at St Louis, experiments and observations are being conducted by Professor Francis E. Nipher which may result in the years to come, in man controlling the law of gravitation, to do with it what he likes.
By means of electrical charges, Professor Nipher has succeeded in nullifying the attraction of gravitation between suspended balls in what is known as the “Cavendish apparatus” for determining the earth’s density. He has, furthermore, reversed the attraction of gravitation into repulsion, more powerful than the attractive-force itself. It requires very delicate instruments to take the measurements, but Professor Nipher declares he has detected daily increases and decreases in the gravitational attraction of the suspended balls due to the daily variation in the earth’s electrical potential.
Long before professor Nipher began his experiments, it had been suggested by scientists that what we know as gravitation may be the effect of electricity. It had also been imagined that if this theory were ever proved to be correct the weight of bodies would be found to be dependent on the number of electrical units they contain. This is the amazing hypothesis which Professor Nipher’s experiments seem to be demonstrating.
If it is true, then the laboratory has begun a conquest of nature which may place man in control of the great force which guides the destinies of the celestial bodies. It is, of course, a far stretch of the imagination to jump from the behaviour of the balls in the Cavendish apparatus to the earth’s journey round the sun and the rush of the planetary systems through space toward the North Star. Nevertheless, if gravitation can be regulated in a laboratory, and if its attractive force can be changed to repulsion, there comes to a theoretical end, as least, the frequent gibe of the scientific pessimist that the earth is inevitably destined sometime in the future to fall into the sun.
Imaginative scientists have long said that if man is to visit other planets out in a space away must first be found to control gravitation. If the Nipher gravitational control is developed, as all other great laboratory discoveries have been developed, it will eventually include, so imagination pictures, a way of sending men through the heavens to pay our respects to the Martians and other dwellers in interstellar space. –N.C.D.M.
About Dr. Francis Eugene Nipher (1847-1926)
He graduated in 1870 from Iowa State University where he became assistant in physical science. In 1874, he was appointed professor of physics at Washington University in Saint Louis. He organized the second state Weather Service, that of Missouri, in 1877, and for ten years it was maintained without official support. From 1878 until 1883, he conducted a magnetic survey of Missouri, doing the work under private auspices, and publishing the annual reports in the publications of the Saint Louis Academy of Sciences. Nipher was a member of scientific societies, and in 1884 became president of the Saint Louis Academy of Sciences.
His publications, including 25 papers on physics, were contributed to the American Journal of Science and to transactions of societies. He is also the author of Theory of Magnetic Measurements (New York, 1886).