Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

This section contains files, photos, and commentary by Philo or those who have worked with, known him, or are related to him.
User avatar
Richard Hull
Moderator
Posts: 12743
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Richard Hull » Sun Jan 19, 2020 5:02 am

I already had about 30 photos of this stunning grid from Bert Poole of Texas who sent them to me when he went to the museum in 2010. Thanks for your images with measurements. We will probably never know much of the ins and outs of what was meant for this grid or if it was ever used in a real fusor. According to Gene Meeks and Robert Hirsch, not one of Farnsworth's brain stormed cathodes made a bit of difference in the results of any of the pit model fusors neutron/fusion outputs. Hirsch said " we were constantly reconfiguring for new grids!"

There are tales, and just that, of run-away events, all poo-poo'd by the living testimonies of all the people involved in the hands-on, day-to-day work. Hirsch noted that the very year they were getting a bit of fusion boost from D-T in the pit and cave systems, (1966-67), was the year that ITT was seriously trying to get a university or the AEC to take over the entire effort as ITT was weary of funding it. As such, by early 1968, all work stopped at ITT. Any reports, as seen in the above photos, dated late 1968 or 1969 was pretty much fluff blown out by Farnsworth Associates which never got going at all in the fusion arena.

I and others have copies of letters to Farnsworth Associates from ITT and its lawyers warning Farnsworth not to step on any of the many fusor patents granted to ITT prior to Farnsworth's dismissal from ITT. ITT noted they would actively prosecute any infringement by Farnsworth Associates. This effectively ended any work by the new firm on fusion beyond drawings and dreams. Many other venues were planned other than fusion for the Associates. All came to naught and all of Farnsworth's ITT team who followed him out to Utah rapidly filtered away. Fred Haak was enticed to go to Utah and check out the Associates. Fred told me that he was stunned at how poorly instituted the entire venture was and did not even stay the weekend there. Every single one of the Indiana people returned to Indiana within a year or two at most.

Only Gene Meeks remained, but not with Farnsworth. Until 1972 Gene worked at the BYU ( Brigham Young University) with Professor Andrew Gardner, as operator of a fusor there at the university for teaching purposes. When that project ended in 1972 Gene returned to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a job in a coatings lab for a year or two and then worked in a TV repair shop and finally as a projectionist at a movie theater. George Bain left Farnsworth in Utah and returned to Bloomington, Indiana and opened a camera and film development shop.

Farnsworth was an idea man in his later years. Gene told me that in Farnsworth's big office, there were large glass cabinets and cases filled with failed ideas, tubes and grids that were never tested but built by the model shop, the tube lab and machine shop. One super cathode idea that Farnsworth put Gene on to complete in a rush, forced Gene to work over time to complete it in 1966. He delivered it to Farnsworth, but never saw it appear downstairs in the fusor lab. Later, Gene said he saw it in one of the glass display cases. "Phil was like that"....Gene said. "Soon we got to be able to read him"...."know his methodology and could tell when he would follow up"..."We did what he said most of the time, but ignored a lot of his ideas that we knew would take time and go no where."......"alone in his office, he just had ideas"

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

Rex Allers
Posts: 437
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2012 8:39 am
Real name:
Location: San Jose CA

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Rex Allers » Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:41 pm

More great sharing of your efforts to accumulate fusion attempt history. Thanks, Richard.
Rex Allers

User avatar
Nicolas Krause
Posts: 129
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:36 pm
Real name: Nicolas Krause
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Nicolas Krause » Mon Jan 20, 2020 12:21 am

Thank you for all the wonderful photos Ed, do you recall the title of the book? I can't make it out from the photographs you've provided.

User avatar
Ed Meserve
Posts: 60
Joined: Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:51 pm
Real name: Ed Meserve
Location: Maine, USA

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Ed Meserve » Mon Jan 20, 2020 1:39 am

It was a hard cover book, "Philo T. Farnsworth, The Father of Television", by Donald Godfrey.

https://www.amazon.com/Philo-T-Farnswor ... 445&sr=8-3
Ed Meserve

User avatar
Paul_Schatzkin
Site Admin
Posts: 738
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2001 4:49 pm
Real name: aka The Perfesser
Contact:

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Mon Jan 20, 2020 4:22 pm

First, copious thanks to Ed Meserve for making the arduous journey over the river and through the snow to Rigby Idaho, and for sharing those outstanding, detailed images of what we (well, <I> have been referring to as "the Rigby cathode." It's a cathode, it's in Rigby, so...

Also, I see that Ed posted a couple of images from Donald Godfrey's Farnsworth bio of one of the early fusor models. I just spent four days in the presence of that device, which I first saw tucked away in the corner of a bedroom/study at Pem Farnsworth's house in Salt Lake in the summer of 1975. We're calling that one "The Little Guy" - as you'll appreciate when I post a photo of it alongside the larger "cave fusor" that, along with much of the Farnsworth Family archives, as found its way to a home in Los Angeles.

In the meantime, here are two better renderings of "the little guy." This was a spot-welded device that lived inside a bell jar. A closer inspection of the lab journals will eventually render more info on its place in the litany of fusor experiments in the early 1960s.

This is an artist's rendering of a cross section:
The Little Guy Cross Section.jpg
And this is a schematic identifying the various components:
The Little Guy Schematic.jpg
I did not take a lot of pictures of this while I was in L.A. this past weekend, but I don't think it's too late to get some. I'll see what I can do in the days ahead.

--PS
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television - http://farnovision.com/book.html
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."

User avatar
Richard Hull
Moderator
Posts: 12743
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:27 pm

Thanks to the Paul for giving the nick name, "little guy" to this much used bell jar fusor. This was one of the last of the bell jar fusors according to Hirsch. He noted that none of the bell jar fusors did much if any fusion ever. "They were still monkeying with the bell jars in mid-1963", Hirsch noted. He said that when he arrived, they had just started to work at D-D ion fusion and let go of the electron knot virtual cathode of Farnsworth's original multipactor concept. "The pit was being dug and outfitted then.... They were not doing fusion with those bell jar systems."

I have corrected an error above. Gene worked with Andrew Gardner at BYU and not at the Univ. of Utah. Gardner passed away in 2010.

Gardner and Hatch did a paper that got published in 1975

Measurements on a spherical electrostatic confinement system employing 6 ion guns
Andrew L. Gardner, Dorian M. Hatch, A. I. Y. Chan†, and Robert P. Evans†
Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 251, 179-189 (1975).

This most certainly was the result of the Meeks fusor work at BYU with Gardner.
Gardner had earlier published papers on mirror machines!

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

User avatar
Paul_Schatzkin
Site Admin
Posts: 738
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2001 4:49 pm
Real name: aka The Perfesser
Contact:

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Tue Jan 21, 2020 2:45 pm

So let me see if I've got this straight:

Farnsworth started the whole thing, but he didn't know what he was doing, so they brought Hirsch in, and he's the only one who could produce any results (neutron counts). Despite those results, Hirsch couldn't get any funding out of the AEC, so instead he went to work for the AEC and funneled all the research money into giant whirling hot Russian donuts – which, twenty years later, he would disavow.

Is it any wonder that we haven't got useful fusion energy today?

--PS
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television - http://farnovision.com/book.html
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."

User avatar
Frank Sanns
Site Admin
Posts: 1752
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2002 6:26 pm
Real name: Frank Sanns
Location: Pittsburgh, PA USA

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Frank Sanns » Tue Jan 21, 2020 3:08 pm

Some pictures that I took.
Attachments
EBCACA15-1FD7-4291-ABDD-78C5E7CAEACD.jpeg
EBCACA15-1FD7-4291-ABDD-78C5E7CAEACD.jpeg (112.93 KiB) Viewed 2294 times
2411C825-61F5-436F-BC5C-22527166C36C.jpeg
2411C825-61F5-436F-BC5C-22527166C36C.jpeg (95.4 KiB) Viewed 2294 times

User avatar
Richard Hull
Moderator
Posts: 12743
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Jan 22, 2020 7:21 am

Intrinsically, Paul's short summary is correct. Though somewhat brutal to all concerned. Farnsworth had his ideas and way of doing things. The team, mostly due to George Bain and silent collusion by Meeks turned the team around and started making a pitiful number of neutrons and fusion about 6 months prior to Hirsch's arrival. Farnsworth would quickly come to see the value of ion based fusion due to the "Bain incident" and Phil was all for it having spun the team's wheels on the "electron multipacting virtual cathode for 3 to 4 years. This wrong headed approach was going no place and all of the three other players on the team knew it, yet said nothing. After all, Phil was in charge of the entire effort at ITT. Nobody had the guts to tell the emperor he worn no clothes. (sad but true). I am still trying to figure out why they followed the dead end road so long. Respect for Phil? Fear of being the first to initiate a mutiny? The Admiral was in the idea with Phil. Would it be like "off with their heads" as spoke the irritated the queen in Alice in Wonderland, or would they precipitate a shut down of the program by ITT?

You had to have listened to the chorus of workers who universally were frightened over both the direction, failure to produce, and, in the end, the loss of their jobs. Everyone universally respected Phil, but slowly they realized that his direction was wrong and feared more years of bell jars and failed virtual cathode generation and, thereby failed fusion efforts with a natural road open to cancellation of the program. I am starting to transcribe my short notes and info. gathered from the mouths of the doers in my effort over the years 1999 - 2005.

As for Hirsch... He was the Admiral's idea. George Bain was writing some pretty painful engineering reports to the Admiral while Farnsworth was claiming a glorious fusion success. I figure the Admiral wanted nuclear PhD. level reports to read rather than conflicting reports from an electronics engineer in charge of the lab and his good friend Farnsworth's reports. The solution.... Bring in a person of such an education in nuclear physics that he would find out what was actually happening at Pontiac street.

As for Hirsch....Once ensconced as the AEC's head of fusion energy division in the Carter administration, he cleaned house of several go nowhere fusion programs and made a number of mortal enemies in doing so. Pay back for the snubbing of the fusor. To paraphrase Hirsch to me in my personal 2000 interview.........Here I was having killed programs that left the AEC with millions of dollars in the budget now floating about, unspent....I was forced by higher powers in the AEC to allocate the funds ASAP or congress would see we had too much unspent money and lower the amount in the next budget.....It is the way things work in Government funding.....At that moment in time the Russians were doing the best fusion in the world with their tokamak....The tokamak seemed a positive move at that moment in time so I threw all that money into tokamak research. I saved the funding for the next year and got a slight increase.....I did not feel proud at that moment and less proud today.....I created a monster that unlike the future for fusion energy would be the only thing self-sustaining and self-perpetuating in the world of fusion. I tried to interest the AEC into following up on electrostatic fusion, but there were still some hangers-on who remembered my presentation that they rejected and they had friends in the fusion effort whose programs I canceled..... So, I was beating a dead horse. I am still a booster of IEC fusion and hope it is taken up at some point, but I fear it is still a dead horse and, sadly to say, perhaps another dead end.

There is much, much more especially about the ITT effort to be told from the mouths of those who did the work and confided in me.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

User avatar
Richard Hull
Moderator
Posts: 12743
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Re: Is It A Farnsworth... or a Hirsch (redux)

Post by Richard Hull » Thu Dec 24, 2020 7:44 am

Most all of the preceding in this thread was before I dug out the final batch of notes, tapes and videos taken in my last visit to Fort Wayne. This last learning process pointed out by Gene Meeks, the absolute lack of a working neutron counter until late 1961 or early 62. In Pem Farnsworth's "Distant Visions" she claims that the singing counter confirmed Phil's ideas in the late 1960 first run of the early bell jar electron multipactor device. Gene said Phil and the team used a Geiger counter until they got the neutron counter! A counter that never clicked in late 1961. Pem might not be a good or reliable scientific reference here. A short missive of 3 pages written by Kent Farnsworth related to his Dad's work, as he remembers it, noted clearly that he and Pem were not allowed to visit the fusor labs due to security issues. He further states that on only one or two occasions were they allowed in the labs.

This counter issue is more fully explained in detail in Hull's attic. It was the lack of the neutron counter to indicate neutrons that first clued George and Gene to Farnsworth's possible self-delusions. Again, fully explained in Hull's attic. Farnsworth knew a bit of fusion physics and was so confident of his ideas that the GM counter was enough for him. Did Farnsworth ever admit to himself or others that the team spent the better part of 2 full years in total delusion??!! The GM counter pointed to all of this is....With no real neutron counter, was Phil's electron multipacting idea never really fully developed and properly tested??!! They moved on to the later fusor idea only once they had a real neutron counter. Gene did note that until the reversal of polarity, the Eberline counter never indicated fusion via the presence of neutrons in the bell jar systems.

The team, as assembled, consisted of two people.... Bains and Meeks who knew zero about detailed fusion physics. They had to rely on Phil's word. Their job #1 was to assemble the system. Only as the team matured after 1962 did they read and learn enough fusion physics to no longer rely on Phil's pontifications, but chose to follow the word of the newly acquired Eberline PNC-1 neutron counter as the true herald of fusion. We will never be able to speak to these two key early team member ever again to find out more.

Haak and Blaising came to the team only after the neutron counter was in use. The early electron multipacting work via GM counter acceptance on Phil's word to his two fusion neophytes doing the work in the darkness and ignorance of fusion physics was never viably tested as it should have been. Only these two early workers now, long dead could tell us more. Their early efforts were mechanical, electrical and engineering efforts relying on the ideas of a man they were in awe of, whose word they accepted at face value and as gospel. It was Phil's ideas being tested in the early days, not theirs. They were in no position to question his thoughts and commands. This was a constant reply to many of my questions as to "why and what", regarding their early roles. "we did what we were told and it was not our place to question"... A theme repeated at the Nuremburg trials. Back then there was a hierarchy in science and engineering. Underlings were to behave like good little Nazis and obey orders as if handed down from mount Olympus. Too much chaffing and decent or questioning and you might get a "pink slip". Gene came close to getting a pink slip at ITT, as noted in Hull's attic.

I am glad I listened to these old tapes where I grilled Gene on this issue. The only reason I did this is solely due to my real work and understanding about neutron measurement which I had to master. Would another non-technical interviewer have pressed Gene to the floor on this nuance? I did and was amazed at what I was told.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

Post Reply