In 1904, while Robert H. Goddard was a student at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, his professor of creative writing asked his class to write a theme on the subject of what travel might be like in 1950. Goddard imagined what it might be like to travel in a mag lev train that shot at high speed through an airless tunnel.

Goddard's super-train.

His fellow students enjoyed Goddard's ideas even if they thought them a little over-imaginative. In 1906, Goddard rewrote and expanded the theme into a short story called "The High-Speed Bet" which he eventually sent to Scientific American. The magazine published a condensed version—more a summary in fact—along with an editorial critique under the title, "The Limit of Rapid Transit."


Meanwhile... French-born American scientist Emile Batchelet had been working on magnetic levitation since the turn of the century. He patented the idea in 1910 (patent #1,020,942). In 1914, a demonstration of a working model of one of his trains in England made national news. Goddard, who all his life vigorously defended his priority regarding an idea or invention (even if he really didn't come up with it first), submitted his story to the WPI Journal solely in order to prove his precedence. He included a preface that carefully explained how he had advanced the idea of a magnetically propelled train years before Batchelet.

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