Donald E. Simanek‘s “Perpetual Futility—A short history of the search for perpetual motion” is an introduction to the perhaps perpetual search for perpetual motion. It begins:
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. In fact, very often the device was presented and described to illustrate the futility of the quest for perpetual motion….