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Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 6:22 pm
by Paul_Schatzkin
I just posted something to the front page of the site that y'all might have missed if you come straight to the forums without stopping at the front door: ... ssion-now/

I'm leaving at oh-dark-thirty tomorrow morning and expect to be at Richard's place before the dinner break.


Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Fri Oct 02, 2015 6:10 am
by Richard Hull
Paul .....We and all assembled will discuss this in some detail at HEAS. You and I grilled Gene and Steve back in 2001. I met with the whole team in 1999 and am the only one to talk for 4 hours and dine with the team leader George Bain before he had a stroke 6 month later and passed away. I also spent an entire afternoon the Bob Hirsch speaking only of those long gone times. There are many apocryphal stories, like the one debunked by Meeks about Philo coming in one night and trying to turn the fusor off once it supposedly "ran away". We now know that was due to a zero experienced operator taking the machine up to a point of electron emission run away. This happens all the time to newbs and is a state that folks have seen my fusor run into when I am distracted at past HEAS gatherings. There is also the one I give More credence too about the totally blasted radiation badges on a night that shook the other technician to his core. What about the transparent-ion gun assembly story, seen by two, possibly three, respected people on the team. Too much to digest and sort through as the last team members pass away. You and I probably have as much or more "horses-mouth" time with the best members of the team of anyone alive. And....We are still baffled and questioning with no one to answer.

Many here might be amazed to know what we know. I have thought about doing a rather extensive paper or booklet on the individuals of the team and my take on them related to the work done, claimed to be done and apocryphal tales.
A good writer and a person who is technically adroit, has done fusion, knows the ins and outs of the work might do a better job.

We will talk for sure. I think it is time.

I do not personally believe, based on my interviews, that there ever was what could truly be called a "Farnsworth fusor" there are patents and only the first model was truly his concept taken to its fullest development and it did not do any fusion. Later models were completely different but were all variations on the new theme and did little fusion at all, supposedly, according to 100% of the team members. Apocryphal tales aside, only with the arrival of Hirsch and the involvement of the lowly, troublesome, but valuable Gene Meeks, (Technician), did real fusion numbers soar.

Richard Hull

Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Wed Jul 25, 2018 10:52 pm
by Leland Palmer
Transparent ion gun assembly story? Witnessed on a fully gunned Hirsch and Meeks fusor? Haven't heard that one. Do you have a link?

Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 5:16 am
by Richard Hull
There is no link that I know of. No one on earth knew of the invisible gun bodies outside of two human beings; Gene Meeks and Robert Hirsch who worked as a two man team on the "cave fusor". I was the third person, (outsider), told about this event by Gene Meeks once I had some beers in him back in 1999. I have made two pilgrimages to Fort Wayne and Bloomington to have personal interviews all of the living remnants of the original Farnsworth team. One in 1999, (5 days of sit-down, face-to-face interviews) and the other in 2001 or 2002. The last time, Paul was there with me, (3 days).

I have had multiple interviews in person and on the phone with Robert Hirsch, Gene Meeks, Fred Haak, George Bain, Steve Blaising and in 1999 with Farnsworth's wife. Dead at the time, (1999), were Admiral Fredrick Furth, Philo T. Farnworth, John Cornealius, Jack Fisher.

Here is the pecking order I found most useful with sharp memories of the period. This coincided with their knowledge at the hands-on level and technical expertise. I list them in order of most value to least valued. Oddly the technicians were a vast treasure trove far beyond the college boys often ram-roding the project. You guessed it!.....Dirty hands are busy hands and thus know every facet of what happened because they assembled and operated everything!

1. Gene Meeks - Worked on fusion with Philo from day one in 1958 at Farnsworth's home before ITT got involved, friend of the Farnsworth family.
( Technician) Farnsworth and Hirsch valued Meeks so much that they allowed him, in 1965, to build and operate his own fusor system at ITT!!!

2. Steve Blaising -( Technician) - came on the team in 1963, but did work for the team shortly before that. They liked him and had him transfered to work with them. Highly valued...When meeks was allowed to work alone in 65, Steve replaced Meeks as Hirsch's Technician.

3. George Bain - (Systems Engineer M.S. degree electronics) ran everything for Farnsworth on the engineering side including the technicians. George filled in administrative details such as budgets, how the work progressed. George got his hands dirty in the operational part. He had amazing stories to tell at the engineering end of things and about many of the personalities he was sent to herd with.

4. Fred Haak - (Engineer - B.S. Chemistry) Freddie as he was known was deeply involved with the Farnsworth fusor from about 1961 on. Admiral Furth demanded Fred be on the team along with Bain as the team needed college engineers. ITT kept a close eye on the team as it did not like being in the nuclear fusion biz, but Furth (former commander of the U.S. Naval Research Lab in DC was an ITT executive V.P. and pushed ITT to fund it in 1960.

5. Robert Hirsch - (Nuclear Physicist - PhD) Brought on board in 1964 to give the team a doctorate in Nuclear Physics on board. Hirsch was a real shot in the arm for the fusor team. Changed the direction to a more focused and professional setup. Farnsworth was terrible at leading. He was rarely there or involved. Hirsch gave the program a "bit of stick" and introduced tritium into what was a D-D adventure up to that point. Hirsch is low on the list only due to what I perceived as an over 'cautiousness in both the personal and phone interviews and discussions". Typical PhD and scientific politician....Yes... Hirsch went on to head the entire U.S. thermonuclear effort in the Carter Administration. Later as a V.P. at ARCO he set up the HARP program in the Arctic. He has worked for the Rand Corp and other government contractors. This makes you hyper careful and political. Still, Hirsch's information was highly valuable and very knowledgeable about the operational and physics end of the operation. I really hate to put Hirsch this low on the list, but the above were full of details and info that Robert just did not have contact or interaction with.

6. Pem Farnsworth - Was old and mostly provided insights into the very early period of fusion work at the Farnsworth home on State Street. Farnsworth heard that Gene Meeks was a great technician in the photo-optical division. He approached Gene to see if he would like to earn some money on the side after work. Gene leaped at the chance. From late 1958 until late 1959, Farnsworth and Meeks worked in the basement of the Farnsworth's home after work. Pem would often have Gene up to have supper with the family. Sometimes as they worked past midnight Pem said that she would fix them a small breakfast meal. Thus, Gene was slowly accepted as a defacto family member, well before the ITT effort.

Due to their passing, the other two technicians Cornealius and Jack Fisher were not interviewed, but Meeks and Balising said Cornealius was only on the team for a few months and Jack fisher, while there for two years was just a 9 to 5'er and not interested in the effort so ultimately left ITT for other work.

I would have loved to talk with Furth but he passed away a few months before I started my quest. All on the team spoke highly of him. He ran interference for them at ITT N.Y. headquarters as he was a V.P. of research. For ITT, the fusor effort was not a popular project. "The Admiral" as he was known to all on the team maintained a suite in Fort Wayne as he would fly in for a week or two to work with and debrief the team on their plans, needs and progress.

I have enough data on hand to write a most interesting story/book on the fusor effort 1958 until its end in 1968. The bulk of all I interviewed are now dead. All had special and interesting personalities and stories, many would amaze and curl yer' hair.

re: The disappearing gun bodies. Paul has been told the story that I got from three different people on the team. None of the rest of the team ever knew anything of this happening. It is one of many amazing stories that I will hold back on until I get my little book ready.

Richard Hull

Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 1:56 pm
by Leland Palmer
Oh, that's really interesting, Richard.

I have all the stuff I gathered uploaded to the Google drive now. I'm working on the permissions so that I can share it with other people, and of course would be glad to share it with you. All of those personal interviews you have are fascinating.

Here is the URL for the drive with the photos. Some of these are almost ridiculously large - so large they are difficult to work with. I wanted to be able to see every bolt, and some of them are high resolution enough to do that. I will keep working with them, and will transform them into JPEG format to get the size down. ... _twBZ5VjE2

Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 1:58 pm
by Leland Palmer
Here is the URL for the drive with most of the scans: ... 6DwYD-OGsK

Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:21 pm
by Richard Hull
They guy leaning over the drafting table in the images your URL had was named Heine. He was the main draftsman for Fort Wayne and he turned all of Farnsworrth's, Bains, Hirsch's and Meek's ideas and doodles into drawings then sent them to the model and machine shops there to turn their ideas into metal fusors. He drew up all of the special vacuum tubes manufactured there. (yes, Fort Wayne made special tubes for the military)

Heine drew up the two, first, all glass fusors made up by the tube shop that Philo took to his home on State street as Philo and Meeks puttered around in the basement with it. (58-59). Before the project got funded , Heine would work up drawings for Farnsworth "under the table" and submit them to the tube shop, who thinking this was company work, would produce the devices submitted and turn them over to Farnsworth in his office. (Ref. conversation with Meeks)

Richard Hull

Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:25 pm
by Leland Palmer
Here is the URL for the drive with the rest of the scans: ... 5WwzWe-82K

Most of the scanned files are oriented properly. I will keep working with them, cropping and orienting them correctly.

I'm still reading through all this stuff, myself.

I'm working on a spreadsheet of the Mariott library archive, and will upload that to the drives ASAP.

One report that I found particularly interesting was a summary report from Robert Hirsch from 1967. It contained the following diagram of what a practical fusor multi-layer virtual electrode could look like:

So, interesting stuff. These guys seemed very certain that they were actually working with poissors with multiple layers of charge. Are poissors real? Has anyone else been able to duplicate these results, that you know of? The weak magnetic field of the earth might tend to distort the purely radial trajectories that they wanted. Has anyone tried shielding a fusor from magnetic fields inside a Faraday cage?

Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:15 pm
by Richard Hull
I have a full, original copy of this thick report given to me by Steve Blaising. This report was ordered by ITT and cost many bucks as they let contracts to colleges and institutions to check the work of the Farnsworth team in 1966. By this time the largest budget ever submitted by the fusor team was under scrutiny and the report was mostly negative when it was released in 1967 and was the last gasp of the Farnwsworth effort. 1968 was the exit year and by late summer most everyone, including Farnsworth had left even though 68 was fully funded by ITT. The handwriting was on the wall and ITT wanted out. Blaising claimed he sat around the empty area for a few weeks all alone until the Admiral showed up and Blaising begged him to put him back into the tube lab. Furth was amazed that Blaising had not been transferred back and saw to it. This kind of shows how a company can be so big it is paying folks to sit around sometimes. Blaising and Haak would retire from ITT in the 1990's. Meeks and Bain followed Farnsworth to Utah to work for Farnsworth's start up company that lasted 8 months. Meeks would come to work at Brigham Young working a fusor for Andy Gartner in the nuclear physics department into the 70's. Meeks would end his working days back in Fort Wayne as a movie theater projectionist. Bain would move back to Indiana in Bloomington where he owned and operated a camera and photo shop there until he retired.

If you are referring to the poissor as a pure floating cathode....No.... the entire system had a range of potentials in the gunned system and the fusor will never break even or produce power as I have noted on a number of occasions.

The superb fusor demo before the AEC in Washington in 68 amazed all in attendance, but Amasa Bishop more or less said the AEC was not interested and this killed the ITT project as they had hoped to turn it over to the AEC. It didn't happen. Hirsch who would in a few short years be head of fusion research and development of the U.S. never lost his love for the simple fusing fusor. Hirsch told me that if fusion is ever to be done it will be done in a smaller device than a tokamak. Now, ITER is making the average aircraft hanger sized tokamak look like a table top model!

Richard Hull

Re: Going Out On A Limb

Posted: Fri Jul 27, 2018 1:25 pm
by Leland Palmer
I look at the history of the fusor, and ask myself "What is wrong with this picture?".

What is wrong of course is that the AEC did not pick up the fusor and fully investigate the idea, I think. We should have seen a portion of the government fusion budget going into fusors - millions of dollars per year for a couple of decades.

I'm not so sure that fusors, or something like them, cannot work, especially if someone is able to figure out how to get rid of the grid. I'm not sure that there is no privately funded development path, with someone figuring out how to make fusors into a practical neutron source, produce a revenue stream, and then fund the sort of development effort that the government should have funded in the first place.

As with so much else in our society, we seem to have gotten into our current global warming mess due in large part to oil corporation political influence, and the political influence of the nuclear industry. I suspect that oil corporation and nuclear industry influence had a lot to do with the fusor development not being funded.

I'd like to see fusor research become an active research and development program again. The cost relative to ITER would be practically non-existent, as you say.