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: ITT efforts
Date: Nov 11, 10:39 am
Poster: Richard Hull
On Nov 11, 10:39 am, Richard Hull wrote:
>I was wondering, if the ITT effort went on for a couple of years, what kind of financing and support did they receive from ITT labs?
The ITT effort was a result not of Phil Farnsworth's efforts, but those of Admiral Fredrick R. Furth!!! Here's the overview.
Farnsworth toyed with the idea of IEC fusion for a number of years starting in the early 50's, but never moved on it as he was still cogitating on it. His company Farnsworth Electronics/ Capehart-Farnsworth was sold to ITT when it ran into money problems. Farnsworth was kept on as a VP in charge of research at his old Fort Wayne operation, which was now ITT-Farnsworth, as part of the deal. He became emboldened enough to ask if ITT would be interested in his fusion idea and fund a small program. After hearing him out, the head of ITT operations (an ex- army general) gave a quick and unqualified NO!
The matter languished and Phil would occasionally beg to start up the effort. Always... NO.
Finally in 1958 he decided to fund the effort out of his own pocket and do the research at home!! To make a long story only a bit shorter, he hired the young Gene Meeks to assist him after work in the Farnsworth home to install the necessary apparatus and plumbing. Gene was happy to get the much needed extra cash. He an phil would often work into the wee hours attempting to ready the basement of the State Street residence for basic research into fusion. Gene worked in the Chem lab as a technician at the Fort Wayne facility by day and normally had no contact with Phil there.
Phil was talking to Cyril Day, a cracker-jack tube designer, at the Fort Wayne operation about getting him to kludge up a form of electron multipactor tube for the fusion research (also on the side). Cyril had a bout with cancer of the face and was knocked out of the picture due to hospitalization. George Bain, his assistance stepped in to help complete the effort. Bain was an ex-RCA engineer who had come to the ITT-Farnsworth facility a few years earlier. This is how Phil met and ultimately secured these folks for the future effort. He liked people he knew and felt he had raport with.
Just about the time real experiments in the Farnsworth home were to begin, the management of the ITT coporate office changed and in came an ex-Navy admiral (name eludes me) as the ITT president. He also brought a few cronies in with him. One was the ex-head of research at the prestigious Naval Research laboratory in Washington DC., Fredrick Furth. (Fritz) to his friends.
Furth was a keen intellect and a real doer' he was a VP in charge of all ITT R&D. He and Farnsworth became very close, very quickly. He instantly recognized the man's genius and upon hearing of Farnsworth's fusion ideas called a meeting with corporate gurus. Phil and the "admiral" gave a good presentation and many of those assembled had little feel for what was presented, but the ITT president being ex-navy and a pal of Furth's gave the go-ahead, rubber stamp to a limited program to investigate the phenomenon in 1959. This proved good as once the news hit wall street that ITT was looking into a totally new form of fusion, the ITT stock price shot up through the roof.
Back at Fort Wayne, the operation got a small area in the basement with a couple of offices to house the fledgling effort. Money was almost non-existant at first, as only salaries and promises of total co-operation of the entire Fort Wayne depatement heads was promised for 1959. Thus, they had to make their own supplies, and scrounge parts already extant within the walls of the facility. It was now at least a paying concern!
In the very beginning it was just Bain, Meeks and Farnsworth with the Admiral flying out from NY on a weekly basis. The admiral was there so much, he had a permanent, rented apartment in Fort Wayne.
From here, the effort grew with funding reaching a maximum in 1964 and 65. (Aprrox $800,00 for each year.) This was for all salaries, parts, travel, equipment, etc! This seems small, but a big salary then for a head enegineer like Bain would have been $10,000! Meeks might have made $5,000.
According to all I have personally spoken to, after 1961, there was no shortage of money, and all they wanted, they got.
The effort officially ended in July of 1968 when Bob Hirsch handed in the final report on the effort.
1959-1968 was ITT's funded effort. The total 9 year project cost was probably under $5 million for everything.
In 1999 that sum wouldn't even pay for a paper "feasibility study" !