Dewey B. Larson


Dewey B. Larson (1898 - 1990) was an American engineer and author, who was born in North Dakota and grew up in the Western United States. He developed the Reciprocal System of Physical Theory, or RST, a comprehensive, general, system of physical theory published in a three volume set entitled The Structure of the Physical Universe.

Larson attended high school in Idaho and Oregon, but dropped out of school for three years before deciding to go back. He enrolled and graduated from Oregon State University in the class of 1922 with his classmate Linus Pauling. He majored in Mining Engineering because it offered most of the classes he was interested in and could be completed in three years. He once characterized himself as sort of a rebel who wasn’t much interested in grades, adding “One time I got some kind of a senior class honor. Linus Pauling and I shared it in the engineering schools, and I don’t think it mattered any more to him than it did to me.”

After graduation, Larson would have preferred to continue his education and eventually pursue research of some kind in a university, but because of the necessity of earning a living, and the scarcity of educational grants and fellowships in those days, he took a job with a utility company in Portland, Oregon, and managed to stay with them through the Great Depression era. Rising to the position of Chief Engineer, Larson was heavily involved with the chemical research activity of the company in which it contracted Oregon State University, and other consulting firms, to perform research required for its chemical products. In the meantime, influenced by the Australian-born philosopher, Samuel Alexander and others, he pursued theoretical physics research on his own, seeking a means to calculate the inter-atomic distances of solid state elements from first principles.

It was while working with these research consultants, and the reports they generated for the utility company, that Larson first started discovering many errors that were traced back to textbooks, which led to his early skepticism of textbook physics and chemistry. What he discovered was that there was a tendency to rely too much on complex mathematics. In an 1984 interview with Jan Sammer, he explains:

The question of equations of state, for instance, the question of how the solid state of matter responds to temperature and pressure has been a subject of enough books to fill a room… The approach has been to handle it mathematically; they’ve tried to arrive at certain constants, and then to derive equations whereby they can assign these constants to the individual substances, and then go into their equations to get the properties under different conditions. And the number of adjustable constants has grown to rather absurd proportions in some cases. The Benedict-Webb-Rubin equation of state, for instance, has something like seven or eight of these adjustable constants-which means that when you’ve got it, you still haven’t really answers, because you don’t know what these constants mean and what constants to apply to what substances. You’ve got to go out and check that in the field every time.

Though Larson had a gift for math, the mathematical approach he was using in his own research project wasn’t any more fruitful than what he found in the consultants’ reports he was reviewing at work. He ultimately came to the conclusion that another way had to be found:

I was trying to do exactly what the constructors of equations of state are doing. I was trying to find mathematical equations in which numbers could be assigned to these different substances, exactly as the rest of them were doing. The only thing is that I came down to the point where I recognized finally that that wasn’t going to get me what I wanted, because ultimately I am going back to a number that is arbitrary, or a series of numbers that are arbitrary. So I finally decided what I had to do was to get something that is meaningful to start with and work the other way.

The result, which took him thirty years to achieve, was finally published in The Structure of the Physical Universe in 1959 as the Reciprocal System of Physical Theory, or the RST, as it is commonly known. The work was revised and expanded and republished in three volumes starting in 1984.

In his The Neglected Facts of Science (North Pacific Publishers, 1982), Larson investigates a type of physical motion that he insists differs in important ways from the ‘vectorial motions with which we are familiar.’ This type of motion he calls ‘scalar’ as opposed to vectorial motion because it has no direction in space as vectorial motion does, but only magnitude that can be outward or inward. Though science has yet to recognize this fact, it is, in the words of Larson, ‘undeniable,’ because it can be observed:

We can observe this different type of motion directly in phenomena such as the expanding balloons, and we can detect it by means of measurements of radiation frequencies in the case of the receding galaxies. As can easily be seen, this motion has no property other than magnitude; that is, it is a scalar motion.
In the RST, all physical phenomena can be interpreted in terms of scalar motion. For example, force and mass are considered to be properties of the underlying motions of particles. The task now, as Larson sees it, is to identify the scalar motions that operate in nature to produce the forces of the phenomena that we observe, such as gravity, electromagnetism, atomic and molecular cohesion, etc. The RST-based program of research aims to reexamine the current conclusions of science in the light of this novel concept. Larson pursued this goal until his death in 1990.

See also: Larson’s New System of Physical Theory; Reciprocal System Theory (RSt)