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Gravity Research Foundation

Established in 1948 by businessman Roger Babson, the Gravity Research Foundation was originally designed to find ways to block or reduce the effect of gravity. In a book called “Gravity – Our Enemy No. 1,” Babson indicated that this desire dated from the childhood drowning of his oldest sister. “She was unable to fight gravity, which came up and seized her like a dragon and brought her to the bottom,” he wrote.

The Foundation was established in several scattered buildings in the small town of New Boston, New Hampshire, which Babson chose because he thought it was far enough from big cities to survive a nuclear war. Babson even put up a sign declaring New Boston to be the safest town in North America if World War III came, but town fathers toned it down to say just that New Boston was a safe place.

The Foundation held occasional conferences that drew such people as Clarence Birdseye[?] of frozen-food fame and Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the helicopter. Sometimes, attendees sat in chairs with their feet higher than their heads, to counterbalance gravity. Most of its work, however, involved sponsoring essays by researchers on gravity-related topics.

Over time, the Foundation shed its crank-ish air, turning its attention from trying to block gravity to trying to understand it. The annual essay prize drew respected researchers who didn't mind a shot at a few thousands dollars - including physicist Stephen Hawking, who won several times.

The physical Gravity Research Foundation disappeared some time after Babson's death in 1967. Its only remnant in New Boston is a granite slab in a traffic island that celebrates the foundation’s “active research for antigravity and a partial gravity insulator.”

The essay award, however, lives on. With prizes of up to $3,500, it is still administered out of Wellesley, Massachusetts[?] by George Rideout Jr., son of the foundation’s original director. Recent winners include California astrophysicist George Smoot[?].

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