Perpetual Futility A short history of the search for perpetual motion. by Donald E. Simanek Popular histories too often present perpetual motion machines as "freaks and curiosities" of engineering without telling us just how they were understood at the time. They also fail to inform us that even in the earliest history of science and engineering, many persons were able to see the futility and folly of attempts to achieve perpetual motion. Sometimes a particular device comes to us with a label, such as "Bishop Wilkins' magnetic perpetual motion machine." Popular articles leave the impression that the inventor believed it was a perpetual motion machine. Bhaskara's Wheels. Villard de Honnecourt was born in the late 12th century and probably lived and worked in the north of France from 1225 to 1250. The most celebrated of his machine designs was for a perpetual motion wheel. Villard's diagram shows seven hammers, and he insisted on an odd (uneven) number of hammers, explaining 56. That's it.