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: More history
Date: Aug 17, 12:50 pm
Poster: Richard Hull

On Aug 17, 12:50 pm, Richard Hull wrote:

I am now reading two fusion histories. The first, I have already alluded to. Now, Bromberg's book "Fusion" arrived two days ago. This was the result of a commission by the fusion community to write a history of its own work. It is the older of the two, being a 1981 copyright.

The book is fascinating in that it deals in great depth with Robert Hirsch's role in bringing about a major direction change in fusion research and forcing it out of the individual lab's control and into centralized control out of Washington.

Hirsch was a power house organizer and was passed over once for the key position of head of the fusion research effort, due to his rock and roll approach to doing fusion. He was itchin' to get the labs out of the doldrums. They had focused intently, not on doing fusion at all, but instead on only theoretical plasma physics.

Upon his appointment in late 1971, he immediately shut down three major lab's efforts in fusion which were not headed anywhere and, thereby, made a ton of deadly enemies in the fusion community. Hirsch actually was responsible for making fusion big science. He wanted to parse out specific tasks to specific labs. He wanted to see things done which would actually bring about power producing FUSION! If some plasma physics was learned along the way, so much the better. Budgets soared over the next 3 years as the Tokomaks were tested to see if they were up to what the Russians claimed they were.

One interesting fact was that 100% of the US effort prior to 1970 was d-d fusion or h-d fusion or some variant. Bob Hirsch forced all future efforts to use D-T fusion, which he had used in his ITT Farnsworth effort in the 60s. So this was Hirsch's idea on a national scale. (according to Bromberg).

When I last interveiwed Hirsch, I was desparate to know who initiated the use of D-T in the Farnsworth crowd. He was open and honest and couldn't remember whether it was in use when he arrived (1964), or whether he suggested it. Likewise Gene Meeks couldn't remember whether Phil Farnsworth brought the D-T into play or whether he and Hirsch were the first to use it!!!! You would think a major winner of an idea like that would be remembered, but the origins of its use in the ITT effort is lost, perhaps forever.

Gene could only say that its use was in the 1963-64 time frame and that Bob and he never made a d-d fusor. He also noted that all the early Farnsworth work was with d-d. George Bain and Fred Haak were even more foggy on the time frame than Bob or Gene.

Suffice it to say that Hirsch carried the excitement of he and Meek's successes with D-T in the small Farnsworth fusors with him into his time in fusion management and pressed for its immediate use.

It gets interesting as connections are made in the history of fusion.

Richard Hull