Fusion Message Board

In this space, visitors are invited to post any comments, questions, or skeptical observations about Philo T. Farnsworth's contributions to the field of Nuclear Fusion research.

Subject: Re: Dr. Robert Hirsch
Date: Jan 26, 11:32 pm
Poster: Richard Hull

On Jan 26, 11:32 pm, Richard Hull wrote:

>I heard a story that says that Dr. Robert Hirsch was a key figure back in the 70's in adopting the Tokamac concept in the US.

Not correct! Having interviewed him in person, at length and having a few separate interviews via telephone, He was not responsible for initial Tokomak funding.

His was a special case and a very interesting story of a young working physicist who slipped very easily into the sciento-political arena and played there well after a bumpy start.

ITT was going to quit fusion PERIOD with the 1968 funding year over. They valued Hirsch's work and tried to get the AEC to take over the ITT effort. Phil Farnsworth was medically retired in late 65. ITT arranged interviews with funding gurus and scientific authorities within the AEC.

A special and incredible fusor, (of the 1970 Hirsch- Meeks patent), was arranged on a hotel maid's cleaning cart. To the stunned amazement of all assembled, it was plugged into the interview room's 120 volt outlet and produced an immediate 10e7 neuts per second. (Hirsch still sports the chamber on his desk in his office.)

He gave a brilliant and honest presentation and as he said "answered all the technical questions instantly and thoroughly and to those items for which he had no data or information, admitted so."

After the break for lunch, one of the officials for the AEC asked if the device had potential and all agreed wholeheartedly. He then asked the killer question. "Whose budget was the funding going to come from?" A key figure from Princeton's Fusion program leaned back in his chair and said; "not mine". Others crabbed and fidgeted, hummed and hawed. Hirsch said that it was at that moment he knew Fusor research under AEC at that time was DEAD! He was politely told to go home and "we will contact you."

The contact came soon with a humble declining of AEC to fund the effort. Hirsch and Meeks continued into early 68 as a cleanup/mopup operation organizing files and final reports. Hirsch had evidently so impressed the AEC politico's that he was offered a key position in the AEC which he accepted and the ITT Fusor program didn't finish out the 68 funded fiscal year. It just stopped dead with Hirsch's departure. Meeks was reassigned and ultimately joined the abortive PTFA in Utah in late 68. He was spared from being stranded in Utah with a position with BYU's IEC fusor program under Prof. Andrew Gartner. Nothing new was done at BYU in this program which ended itself in 1972.

Hirsch within a year or two became top banana in fusion efforts within the AEC administration. He told me he made a gang of enemies within some government labs and facilities as he visited and summarily closed down at least two major fusion efforts which had been on going for sometime and which he felt were worthless efforts. I can't remember of the top of my head, but believe one was the stellarator (could be wrong). With a gang of enemies and seeing just how political and non-science things were in DC at the AEC, he dared not get near the near omnipotent Princeton group and mainly marked time until he went with private industry in the early 70's. So Hirsch was not a force in the 70's regarding tokomak funding. He had slipped gracefully into a presidential advisory position out of the AEC (Infant DOE, very early Carter Administration under James Schlusinger) just prior to going into private industry. He had learned how to play ball the DC way, was good and praticed at the art. It is his greatest selling point to big business to have such a man now advise them.

He has come to hate the huge, costly and bloated infrastructures of the the massive tokomak fusion efforts. He never had more than a few tens of thousands to offer any one for IEC work and when approached later with 1 million to resume work he noted that that was just not nearly enough to do the work justice and declined. (His own words.)

After overseeing the startup of HARP as an ARCO excutive VP, he is now head of a top DC power advisory/management firm (they took over HARP from ARCO).

Robert Hirsch still has IEC deeply buried in his Heart, but is past the time of being able to head a major effort with his skills in other areas so useful and valuable. He and Bussard really did look at getting IEC going big time again, and he still speaks highly of Bussard's verve and imagination. However, the funding never happened.

I hope this helps out on Hirsch's role and loss of his dreams for realizable IEC funded efforts while in a position of power. The Hot fusion effort was powerful, inplace and mad at him due to his efforts to cut waste and open up funds for IEC which was quickly just diverted to other hot fusion efforts inplace.

Richard Hull