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: Farnsworth and Hirsch
Date: Aug 16, 10:24 am
Poster: Richard Hull

On Aug 16, 10:24 am, Richard Hull wrote:

>I have a historical question.
>It seems like Farnsworth and Dr. Hirsch did not see eye to eye on what the form of the IEC should have been, correct?

Hector has been doing some research.

The answer is a qualified yes and no.........

A qualified "YES", in that Phil had very hard set and fast ideas. He was not easily put off his path, could be considered bull headed whether he was right or wrong and had the "Admiral", Fredrick R Furth- Senior VP in charge of ITT Research, to back him up in most matters. He was truly a genius, but not a great hads on experimentalist. He did almost none of the day to day hands on work during the 1959-1968 effort. He was not even there during the last two years of the project. 66-68. Phil's first approach was one he was familiar with and that was the EXL concept. From 1959 until late 63 or very early 64. The entire effort was using the idea of multipacting electrons and not deuterons. Thus the inner grid region was positive and the outer shell negative. This process yeilded terrible results with little or no fusion. Gene, George, Fred, and probably others, slowly convinced Phil that they might be better off colliding deuterons. Once phil changed his mind, things improved within months. They were getting about 10E6 neutrons/sec or maybe just a little better with D-D fusion.

When he arrived in late 1964, Bob was young, freshly doctored, and by his own admission, impatient. He probably saw what to him must have looked like a bunch of enegineer types trying to do plasma physics.

He was eager to leap in an do fusion, immediately realizing Farnsworth's underlying genius and a good idea when he saw one. Farnsworth was not immediately at odds with Hirsch. Bob moved, or wanted to move, fast! Up to this time the pace had been rather slow and leisurely. This created a bit of friction between others on the team. Gene Meeks was the only one to leap on what I might term the Hirsch bandwagon. Both were young and eager. By the same token, Bob recognized in Gene what he called a "good pair of hands". Gene could "do" and, according to Bob, had a grasp of the processes involved which he felt the others in the group just didn't possess singlely. A slow drift occurred between what Phil wanted to try and what Bob wanted to try.

A separate area was created for Bob to work on his own and at his own pace. Gene was his prinicple assistant.

A Qualified "NO" in that this was a team! The Admiral saw to the needs of the group and carried enough clout that he would not allow things to boil over. Fred Haak was the everpresent peace maker when the few and, often trivial flare-ups occured. The group did have discussions and meetings to talk about what they were trying. Bob and Gene just were more of a pair of movers and shakers than the others. Phil nor Bob never hated or dispised anyone in the group, They weren't that kind of people. They had differences, not animosities. This whole effort needed all the guys it had and they all did a fine job.



>Oh, and I had a friend check when ITT requested a License to operate with Tritium and it was approved years prior to Hirsch getting to ITT labs, so much for the theory that Hirsch was the person who started that at ITT labs.


Sorry, but that is wrong.

The Farnsworth team never, ever, had a license to use or store Tritium!!!

It was a site license which was acquired and held by a fellow in the tube lab! They used his tritium. Why fight for a separate license when the stuff is licensed to another guy on-site, three doors down the hall!

Tubes used in initiators, special trigger tubes etc., can use a number of radioactive gas fills to keep the tube "alive" and ready for rapid switching. Some custom hydrogen thyratrons used both deuterium and Tritium fills as well.

It must be remembered that the Fort Wayne operation was huge and their main product was special purpose military vacuum tubes. They had a tube lab, a model shop, a tube design department, a special coatings lab, a complete chemistry department and machine and metal shops in addition to qualified technicians and scientists. This huge "draw" on in-house talents and resources allowed for rapid solutions of day-to-day bothers. All It also held outside costs way down. So it was with the Tritium.

Fred Haak was snatched in 62 from the coatings lab due to his experience with vacuums and permanently re-assigned to the fusor team. Everybody on the team was stolen from other departments. There was never a new hire for the team except for Bob Hirsch.

Bob Hirsch was an instigator in the Team's use of Tritium. When he arrived, they were using only Deuterium! (thus the low numbers) Meeks confirmed this along with Bob. The others were foggy on when the use started.

So Bob was probably the progenitor of the Tritium use and they snatched the Tritium in-house on a pre-existing license from a pal in the chem-lab.

Neither could remember the exact date or time of its first use, but Bob seems to think that by early 65 they were all using the D-T mixtures.

>Farnsworth had already been doing D-T testing prior to Hirsch getting to ITT labs.

Not so according to all the team members best recollection...... This is from about 50 phone interviews and personal face-to-face sit down interviews as well over the last 3 years. I haven;t let the guys alone on this matter either.
Regardless of what the books and stories say, the guys there on the firing line are the ones to ask.


>Also I heard that Hirsch donated one of his devices to the University of Wisconsin many years ago and it's still there.


This may be true, I'll have to ask. I know that in the end, (68), he did ship a lot of personal stuff off to the plasma physics lab of his old alma mater, the University of Illinois (Miley).
I also will note that the Univ. of Wisconsin did have a guy there who was regularly in touch with Bob and according to Bob, he did some nice fusor work, but in his own realm was not taken too seriously.

Bob never lost sight of his prize demo fusor though, or keeping the dream of IEC fusion alive.


>I think I'll ask the guy's at Wisconsin this week about the Hirsch device to make sure its there.

>I don't think that there is any question that almost everything that was done at ITT is in historical dispute.


Not by the actual guys who were there!

They all tell similar stories, as I cross checked them singly as I started phone interviews in 97. Oddly, not a single one ever kept in touch over all these years, so not colusion or mutual yarn spinning seems to have embelished the thing either. Gene and Bob would touch base over the phone every ten years or so. All of the stories were written historically with the verve of keeping the interest in the story line high. Most of the team members noted that I was one of the first to interview them seriously about the science, enegineering and physics of the effort. It taxed, to the limit many of there fading memories. Certainly, there is no one or any extant documentation which can hold more power of fact than the people involved, themselves.

To this day, George Bain has never seen any of his team mates since 1968. I was personally responsible for the tearful reunion of Gene and Fred in 1998 even though they have lived about 15 miles apart for the last 45 years!!!! Pem Farnsworth was excited to see Fred and Gene in her home together after all these years, as we trooped across Fort Wayne to visit with she and Kent. It amazed me and gave a personal and warm touch to the afternoon.

R. H.

>Perfect example the Mark series with the Ion guns is claimed to have been a Hirsch device, while others say it was a Frasworth idea, but the Grid system which was being researched by Farnsworth many years prior to Hirsch and this a Fact, is claimed to be a Hirsch idea.


Again, confusion........

Farnworth always had grid ideas, the concept is his and his alone. This is totally acknowledge by Hirsch and others on the team. Farnsworth's team used guns all along! Electron guns and ion guns!! this was from 1959 to 1968. Farnworths main adherents remained Fred Haak and Geroge Bain. They never abandoned the gunned system.

Hirsch built 2-3 gunned machines, ala Farnsworth, in his "cave" and gave the idea up within two years. Hirsch got rid of the guns, opting for a uniform spherical ion source seen in his patent. This idea was Theirs alone and is is proven by the patent being granted.

The elegance and simplicity of he and Meeks is device has not yet been equaled to this day.

>On a technical note, has anyone used strips instead of wires for the inner grid?
>Dr. Nadler talks about using them to increase heat dissipation rates.


I think there is a patent on this and it may be one of Miley's gealously guarded holdings. I haven't looked at those patents. However, we have already discused these and methods for construction earlier on this list.

Hope all this stuff sets some of the record straight. I struggled tooth and nail to acqure the straight dope on this situation and to make sure the time line is correct.

Hector has been sifting through the stuff available as best he could and I too had a lot of the same ideas early on, but have over the years been set straight by the team members.

Richard Hull