Richard Hull's Attic

This section contains files, photos, and commentary by Philo or those who have worked with, known him, or are related to him.
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Re: "Revese Polarity"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Fri Feb 28, 2020 3:24 pm

Richard, I'm going to go back to your post from yesterday, because something fundamental is still unclear to me.
No counts on neutron counter until polarity reversal.
That's one incredibly loaded short sentence that demands further elaboration.

For starters: can you articulate what Farnsworth thought he was doing with the "virtual cathode / electron multipaction" configuration that was incorporated into the first 'bell jar' designs of the fusor?

I get that the idea was a negatively charged electron well at the center of the chamber, is that right? That virtual cathode (electron cloud?) would attract positively charged ions by dint of its own negative charge, right? And somewhere in there.... poissor? Have we discussed at all how that was supposed to form, or what exactly it is? I mean, it's only central to his whole idea, and everybody who's managed to achieve fusion and produce neutrons in an amateur fusor has created one, but do we have a really good idea what exactly a "poissor" or is how it is central to fusion (to say nothing of its polarity...).

My understanding is that the poissor is a "layered onion" of electrical charges: a layer of negative charge inside a layer of positive charge inside a layer of negative etc etc, all within a space smaller than the head of a pin, and that (ideally, anyway), that is the "star" where the fusion occurs (though I am getting now that fusion occurs everywhere within the chamber, and that that is one reason why the fusor is so inefficient).

So if you can, set me straight on those assumptions.

And then, what I'm really driving at is: what exactly does "reversing the polarity" do that produces fusion, when the original configuration could not?

Please understand, I am not challenging anything you're presenting here. I just don't understand it well enough to make the necessary sense of it, and I'm trying to disabuse myself of a lot of misconceptions that I've willingly (ignorantly?) clung to for decades.

This is why it's SO important that you're sharing all this stuff with us, because I think it's fundamental to our understanding of what is happening here and our hopes – however misguided they may ultimately be – for what the potential in whatever it was that Philo T. Farnsworth envisioned like 60 years ago (assuming that vision was not entirely delusional).

So, whenever you get the chance, pray tell.


Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television -
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."

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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Feb 28, 2020 10:29 pm

First, let us clear things up a bit. If you see a pretty star, this is a bad thing. Less fusion is being done there. Light is emitted when recombination takes place. This means that there is an intense union of electrons and deuterons in a small space. As the binding of electrons to hydrogen nuclei, (protium, deuterium, tritium) is about 13eV. If the electrons or deuterons are moving faster than this energy allows, there is no recombination. The center of the poissor is an area of collision This means a slowing down of a very dense group of electrons and deuterons where recombination occurs. Thus, limited fusion occurs here, What you really want is a velocity space collisional area of a much larger physical volume as seen in the spherical or cylindrical fusors where very little recombination takes place. (a dull glow). The bulk of fusion occurs over the vast inter-grid space. The University of Wisconsin has proven this.

Phil's idea was great at first glance. No real physical body that was negative, (like our grids), instead, he wanted a ball of electrons to create a negative well. This requires a driven alternating radio frequency field as he produced in his multipactor vacuum tubes invented earlier. To do this you need a source of electrons in the device created by a filament or by field emission. The electrons in order to form the knot must have an opposing field alternating gradient in the gas such that they are forced to reverse in a phased manner related to the geometry of the device which the RF generator is tuned to. This bunches the electrons in the center of the device. Look at the original patent for the fusor and you will see the absolutely critical powerful RF generator as part of the submitted drawing.

Once you have the negative well, the DC field that makes the electrons to accelerate also ionizes the deuterium gas. It is hoped that the much slower and far more massive ions will accelerate towards the negative well and fusion will occur as they crash into each other in the center. This is nice in theory, but is very difficult to do in practice. This is due to the RF generator needed to form the negative well in the center.

EDIT November 2020: I fear I did not deal with Paul's question to either my or his satisfaction. Sometimes a re-read helps. This relates to Paul's "onion skin" query.
Space charges are common in vacuum tubes with various electrified elements within them. (fact) They are usually viewed with great disdain by people designing a tube and grids or other elements are usually introduced into the tube to offset or get rid of the negative or undesirable space charge around the working elements within the tube.

Due to the nature of charge, itself, one cannot have a stable ball of charge with onion skin layers of positive and negative charges. Such an entity would immediately do what positive and negative charges do and that is neutralize each other. From this it must be realized there is no layered charge within the multipactor concept. In multipaction, there is an idealized negative electron knot trapped in a zone within and "electron tube". Special resonances are required to do this within the tube itself. Farnsworth hope to use this "virtual cathode" to force positive ions, (deuterons), to be attracted to this non-solid, central, negative electrode and fuse. Great idea, but neutralization would be the net result.

The upshot is that I personally feel that without a neutron counter in his earliest efforts or the required ion guns, introduced later, his original ideas were never fully tested. We are doing what Farnsworth wanted, but with a real physical, central, negatively charge grid! Just like the failure of the Farnsworth virtual negative electron knot, our grids also neutralize a large number of deuterons that heat the real physical grid. This is why we can do fusion but the return is real, yet pitiable.

END of November 2020 edit............

Here is what Wikipedia had to say about multipaction, giving Philo credit for his work....
This phenomenon was first observed by the French physicist Camille Gutton, in 1924, at Nancy.

The Multipactor was identified and studied in 1934 by Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of electronic television, who attempted to take advantage of it as an amplifier. More commonly nowadays, it has become an obstacle to be avoided for normal operation of particle accelerators, vacuum electronics, radars, satellite communication devices, and so forth........................
Well, it is to be considered an obstacle and avoided in particle accelerators!!! I guess Philo helped prove this in the early 1960's.....

When polarity reversal occurs in this device, any fusion that takes place would be there, but extremely limited due to the phase relationship between the opposing electron emitters within the DC field. Over time, more fusion might take place due to beam on target within the device, but even then it would be terribly poor as the Farnsworth bell jar would look and react differently. (Phil noticed this visually, if you will remember, in the reversal induced by George.)

The big deal is that with no neutron counter, and just using a GM counter for the first two years, the group was crippled. They were crippled, first, scientifically by having no suitable neutron detector at hand and second by a total lack of understanding by the people doing the work who believed blindly that Phil knew what he was doing and accepted his word on the GM detections. I was aghast at what I learned all along, but demurred in bashing Phil's work. No more, however. You had a man with no formal training in nuclear physics with a great idea that seemed like it would work, but didn't, in the end. His crew got smart via reading and study. The admiral probably was also wondering why they had no neutron counter and got them one rather belatedly once the money became available in 1961. Back then a good neutron counter was almost as much as an inexpensive new car! The neutron counter, once it arrived, would not indicate fusion with Phil's idea. They believed in Phil so the counter must be bad. It wasn't, it was truly reading, no fusion! The team's low neutron counts when they did do fusion in 1962 via reversal and electrostatic guns was due to a fixation on dense beams of deuterons blasted through large dynodes to collide in the center, again, with no solid central grid. For the deuterons to make it to the center and collide you had to reduce the pressure for mean free path considerations. The notes verify 5 microns was a big pressure for them. This meant Less fusion fuel! To do fusion, they needed very high voltages. We at are typically using up to 20 microns in the big spheres and 30-40 microns in the crosses! The Farnsworth numbers went up significantly in 1964 with the 100X D-T mix. Once the solid central negative target coupled with ion guns and D-T after 1966, they were able to hit the 10e9 numbers. The cave fusor operated by Hirsch used the right idea and Meeks going off on his own to hit 10e12 in the very end in 1968 was a nice finish, for the time.

The team relied on what they called a dynode, this is much like our central grid. The dynode was the central, highly negative device, just like our inner grid! A dynode, as they used it, absolutely demanded multiple ion guns focused at a central point in space within the dynode. We cannot use the large dynode as we have no ion guns. Thus, we are forced use a much smaller dynode which we call an inner grid.

In Pem's book she also notes what I note. The real improvements all came in and after 1965. One of the most amazing tabulated runs in the book were the amazingly low D-T pressures below 1 micron and at 140,000 volts and above! This is ridiculous! Starved for fuel but a suitably long mean free path allowed the deuteron beams to collide relatively undiminished at the empty center of the fusors dynode. This is not the way to do fusion. Your current is low and your fuel is just not there either. Basically, they are spending boat loads of money to do what the average amateur fusor can do today with D-D fusion at much higher pressures and currents, but at half the applied voltage. Pem did stumble over a number of issues of units and quoted, verbatim, a typographical error in units from the Admiral's letter to her. Still, she did her best with what she had.

Phil would effectively disappear from the entire effort in late 1965. Phil would be placed on active retirement temporarily, due to his "condition" and as the end drew near in 1967 we have a letter of his being fired from ITT, ending even that rather tentative paid status. The short lived, abortive PTFA was the last of Phil's great super expanding dream world and he dragged a lot of folks who believed in him down with his lost dream.

We have 2 people at, using the vastly simplified amateur variant of the Hirsch-Meeks dessert cart fusor doing 10e7 and 10e8 n/s in D-D fusion. If you gave these guys D-T to run then 10e10 would be an easy effort for the best among them, albeit a bit radiologically hazardous. No ion guns needed. No accelerating grids needed. We could easily outshine the best pit machine and almost touch the cave and MK II prime machines of the Farnsworth effort. Our fusors need no RF oscillator as it is a simple two electrode, electrostatic, accelerator-collider with a bit of beam on target thrown in and works on many levels to do fusion and on many levels to not do fusion. The positives in our device outweigh the negatives and we do a nice amount of D-D fusion for amateur purposes.

Farnsworth gave us the impetus to do fusion via electrostatic confinement coupled with beam on target fusion. The negative well we create is with a real hollow electrode and not a virtual one.

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.

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Two good years 1965-1966 lots of ideas

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Mar 11, 2020 6:22 pm

The team was in full stride as 1964 ended and Bob Hirsch had proven his value to the admiral and ITT. In 1965 the Cave is constructed to run Bob’s ideas using the superb ion guns designed by Gene Meeks who was now permanently assigned to Bob as his personal assistant and technician.
The pit team working on Phil’s ideas had a technician assigned by the name of Jack Fischer. Little is known of Fischer as he was a short hire. He would leave after only 6 or 8 months. He was not generally liked by Meeks or the fellow who replaced him, Steve Blaising. Blaising was brought in to assist Fischer and the busy pit team of Bain and Haak. Steve noted that for a couple of months he was on loan from the Federal tube engineering division of ITT also at Pontiac street. By mid-1966 Fischer was gone and Blaising would be made a permanent member of the Pit team as their technician.
From 1965 there would be two main teams with two significant fusor projects running co-jointly.
The cave fusor was expected to be every bit as radiologically dangerous as the pit fusor. A second pit was impractical and if dug would totally disrupt the original pit teams work for a few months. The solution was to build a borated cinder block wall all the way up to the ceiling in the big main lab area near the pit. Placing borax, (sodium borate), in cinder block mix would act to absorb much of the neutron radiation. This “block box” would come to be called “the cave”. At first, the cave used an older “pit” supply limited to 100kV. With the big 1966 budget, the cave received a new 150 kV Universal Voltronics supply capable of 100ma. This new supply was just a little lower in top voltage than that used for the pit fusor.

The pit fusor would remain rather fixed in form factor from 1965 until the end of the program in mid-1968, but would see a large number of innovations and changes internally as Phil would be his usual font of new ideas about the inner dynode structure and, ultimately, physical cathode structure design alterations. I will not mention or discuss every alteration as there were many and not every piece of documentation about them is extant. Internal alterations to the Mark II pit reactor would take at least a week to a month to accomplish as the device would have to be cracked open, alterations made, be made vacuum tight and re-evacuated. Bringing a freshly altered pit system back down to 10e-8 torr could take days. In the record, we see that the yield on such a fine system rarely exceeded 10e8 n/s.
Electrostatic ion guns would be replaced by more normal Pegatron ion guns to get the ion current up in the pit fusor which was starved for deuterium with pressures on the order of 2-8 microns. Regardless of what they did in the pit, 10e9 n/s is about the best that they turned out during the MK II’s entire tenure during the program. Some of the bold alterations would reduce the output to no more than 10e6 n/s. To reach large neutron numbers well over 100kV applied was the norm.
The cave turned out to house several totally different form factor fusors from late 1965 until 1967 as Hirsch and Meeks tried many ideas that would not allow one fusor body to house some of their more wide-ranging ideas. The one test they did that surprised everyone was two or three non- ion gunned fusors with just a central grid. This far simpler concept would prove to be the germ of the idea for a future demonstration fusor that would go to Washington D.C.!! Most of the variations and test fusor ideas would cease in the cave by late 1966 and the “final variant” small 6” ion gunned fusor would troop through to the end of the program. This small fusor would ultimately produce 8X10e10 n/s or a flux of 10e7 n/sq. cm/sec! All the numbers for the best pit and cave fusors were using a D-T fusion gas mix.

Philo T. Farnsworth steps out of fusion

In general, the teams worked separately and harmoniously, sharing data and ideas. Phil seemed happy until he was not. In late 1965, it appears that a paper written mostly by Phil was needed by ITT to try and solidify ITT’s ideas about what it would be funding in future. This paper involved math and conceptual ideas related to fusion. Bob Hirsch was to oversee the paper before submission. He and Phil did not agree on some of the math routes taken by Phil and some of his assumptions related to fusion physics. Already in serious disagreements on the paper, a visit by a group of scientists and officials to explain what they were doing as a team had Phil, the admiral and Bob shepherding them around the facility and lab. At some critical junctures, during the tour, it is said, when questions were asked on specific points, Bob immediately jumped in to answer. Some of the team present said that Phil slowly hung his head and sunk back in the crowd. He would later leave that day and said, “I am going home to get drunk.” He did just that and it is noted in Pem’s book Distant Vision. Phil had done this sort of thing before. A case of depression followed by drunkenness and a wasting of his already thin and weak constitution would never see him at serious fusion work ever again. During this period, he was asked by his friend Fritz Furth, the admiral, to please work on the paper at home as drafts would be sent back and forth between, he and Bob Hirsch. Phil just gave up. He said the ideas in the paper were not his ideas and thoughts on fusion.

According to Hirsch in my interview, Phil's math was just not correct and could not be presented in the scientific paper planned to be studied by other knowledgeable scientists. For my sake, he obviously mellowed it out a bit. In my interview with George Bain, he noted that with each re-write sent to the ailing Farnsworth, Bob Hirsch was less circumspect and one day came to Bain and showed him Farnsworth's math, telling Bain, "Farnsworth is crazy!" "This math can't be used at all....His figures are just not right!" It is to be remembered that Farnsworth's assumptions drove his calculations. According to Bob, Phil was working from unfounded and unverified assumptions. Bob had just received his Doctorate in nuclear physics and now had a couple of years worth of hands-on experience with the fusor and fusion at ITT. His work would prevail.

Phil’s prolonged absence forced ITT to put him on a medical leave status with reduced salary. Phil’s condition worsened and became so bad that he would have to be sent to a facility that could help him get out of his state of depression and drinking and try and build him back up physically. Gene Meeks was called upon to help Pem take him to the airport for the trip. Gene told me that he hand-carried Phil in his arms to the car and then to the airplane. Gene told me he started to tear up as he did this. When it became obvious that Phil was not going to return in an active role, ITT effectively fired him in a letter noting that he was medically and permanently retired. This was in early 1966. Phil would take all of 1966 to pull himself together, all the time dreaming of returning to Utah for good to start up a business devoted to the betterment of man, once again taking up fusion, water purification and other humanitarian ideas. This company would be called Philo T. Farnsworth and Associates, (PTFA). The plan was to be delayed until late 1967. This ended all connections and work on fusion at ITT for Phil Farnsworth. He would not be there for the last two full years of the project that he started.

The team troops on….

Bob Hirsch would finish the scientific paper and see it submitted. His paper was well received at ITT and boosted by the admiral. ITT would OK the largest budget ever submitted of $600,000 for their 1966 fusion project. This would be a peak year for the project. Whatever they wanted, they got. George Bain noted to me that they really could not spend it fast enough. Most would go for new and better instrumentation, several neutron counters, oscilloscopes, much heavier power supplies, etc. As 1966 worn on with the profusion of Bob’s ideas turned into hardware in the cave. The pit fusor now also operating under Hirsch's supervision, but George Bain was in charge of day-to-day work on the pit fusor and its attending team. ITT and Bob wanted input from other universities, scientists, and fusion experimenters as to what they thought of the ITT effort. Part of the 1966 and 1967 budget was gobbled up by this effort as all of those queried would be paid a certain sum if they would answer some questions and submit a formal review paper related to their careful study of what was going on at ITT and any recommendations they might have. Bob liked the idea of getting their work out there and reviewed. ITT, however looked at the effort as a final look at what the people in the fusion community thought of the possibilities of the inertial electrostatic fusion effort at its current state. In other words, ITT was beginning to worry that they were funding a program that like many funded by the government might develop into a money pit with no reward at an actual end that was not is plain sight.

In the end, in late 1966 and early 67, a formal compilation of Bob’s original thorough paper on ITT’s fusion effort that was reviewed by all the participants in the query, plus all of their rather voluminous paper responses, took the form of a thick GBC bound volume. One of the key questions demanded in an outline of what the participants must touch on in their reports to earn the money was, “Where do you think such work as this might best be handled in future”. (Industrial labs, academic research labs, government laboratories, other).

The respondents rather universally dismissed the industrial setting, like ITT or a Bell lab type environment. Most opted for academic research labs, with a few suggesting turning it over to the government.

In addition, most responded that they could not see the methods explained to them in the paper, becoming a path to controlled nuclear fusion from which energy might be extracted. Some few noted the idea might have merit.

It turns out this is exactly what ITT wanted to hear. A way out was being planned.

Strange goings on - unreported observations kept secret – Confirmed and Unconfirmed amazing events.

I include this section as an interesting side bar. All that is related here is taken from the horse’s mouth, as it were. This means real people telling real stories that they either witnessed or heard about from other lesser players who could not be interviewed. These events are numbered, and all took place in the 1964-1966, time frame when the participants were all “on the wise” related to the fusion process, the general ideas involved in fusion physics and as to what they were doing every day.

1. Phil’s nocturnal fusion event.

This was told by Pem Farnsworth in her book Distant Visions and must be consulted by all who want it related verbatim. People that were present: Phil and Pem Farnsworth. Pem almost never appeared in the lab and had little knowledge of the workings there beyond what Phil relayed at the dinner table or in conversations at home. Thus, we must regard her, at that time, as not being a fusion savvy person.

One night, Phil, for whatever reason decided to take Pem to the lab and operate the pit fusor. It is known and told to me that, after the bell jar fusors, Phil was an observer only at all test runs. Apparently, he had watched the procedures for the pit system and felt he could bring the system up to functionality on his own. Phil was no dummy. He had many years of experience in lab situations involving vacuum systems and general electronics from his television experimental days. However, a differentially pumped, gunned fusor is a complex device. Phil did not build it nor was he privy to the many delicacies involved in preparing it for a normal run.

According to Pem, she sat and watched as Phil brought the system to life. Phil advanced the voltage until a large flash occurred. Phil shut off the power, she says, and the meters went to full scale. For a while and then slowly decreased. She asked, “what happened”? To this Phil got up and said, “I have seen all I needed to see”. What this means is left for the reader to interpret. Did Phil do fusion, or did he just think he did fusion, or did he want Pem to think he had done fusion?

I asked about this “event”. Gene Meeks told me that Phil had wrecked the fusor that night and it took Gene and Fred Haak about two weeks to get the system in working order again. He noted that the current meters for the guns and the Universal Voltronics supply current meter had their needles bent requiring them to order replacement meters. Fred Haak was also questioned, and he told me that Phil had burned a hole in the shell of the fusor. This is where the flash would have lit up the pit as an arc in air would have formed for a moment until the power supply over current sense relay would drop out. Bain: “We had issues with Phil working the fusor. He was not familiar with the intricacies involved” Meeks: “George told me to go down to Pep Boys and buy two key ignition switches. I installed them in the power cabinets so only George, Fred and I had keys. Phil never ruined another system after that.”

From my standpoint, I write this story off as a non-event. (beyond a destructive one.) Sadly, Pem Farnsworth cannot be considered a disinterested, uninvolved, observer with a suitable knowledge of fusion to determine if fusion was actually taking place to some significant level.

2. Another event touted as a runaway fusion reaction.

This event was reported to both Steve Blaising and Gene Meeks by Jack Fischer, (another technician of short tenure with the team). I will relay this as it was told to Paul Schatzkin and myself in 2001 by both Gene Meeks and Steve Blaising in-person.

Blaising: “I do have one event that was relayed to me by Jack Fischer. One morning he came to me as white as a sheet. He told me that one evening he and George were running the pit fusor when there was a bright flash in the pit and a loud bang. George shut everything down in order and brought the fusor up for inspection the next morning. Fred had found a small hole in the fusor body near one of the guns. The system was repaired. What Jack was so upset about was the next week after the three radiation badges placed in the pit had been developed, a report came back that all were black, totally exposed! The letter with the developed badges suggested that the employee involved should be immediately evaluated! We all knew that those three badges routinely came back, “no recorded exposure”. That was the norm for all badges, pit, cave and personnel.”
Meeks: “Yeah, I heard about that from Jack. He was a nervous-Nelly any way. He says that George had sworn him to secrecy on the matter as he was worried ITT would shut the project down. They never duplicated that event. Jack left and that was that for me.”
Blaising: “Gosh, Jack was really upset about that. He left ITT not long after that. I asked about his and George’s badges, he said they showed no exposure, but Jack was still worried.”
Meeks: “Well good riddance to that guy, he was kinda’ out there anyway. I never liked him. He was always bragging and telling stories”.

I have no personal comments or theories here and will leave this to the reader. Three exposed badges collected after the event, according to Jack Fisher who collected and mailed off the badges for everyone on a regular basis. The only badges fully exposed were in the pit. No personal badges exposed at all. These badges are proof against light flashes, exposure to the sun, etc. Only penetrating radiation can expose them.

3. Invisibility reports - Confirmed by multiple observers - Occurred on two separate occasions. - Three observers - Not repeatable

This one grabs me. It points to a lack of communication that works out to advantage here.

Incident one:

Before I ever went to Fort Wayne for the week-long interviews, this entire amazing saga unfolded before me. It initially came to light in a phone call with Gene Meeks. I had already made maybe six long phone calls to Gene over six months with lots of notes. Gene had come to trust me and was opening up more and more realizing I was a technical and fusion savvy guy.
I will paraphrase the conversation……
Gene: Here is something you might be interested in.
Hull: Sure, go ahead
Gene: Bob called me one Sunday and said he wanted to run the cave fusor at higher pressure with a new grid we put in Friday. The admiral was flying in from New York on Monday and he would like to give him an update on it. So, I went in and we were getting the vacuum set up while I was whipping the guns into shape and getting their supply currents and ion currents balanced. Boy, that was a job. It could take an hour to get them right before we applied high voltage to the fusor. The high voltage extractor supplies were acting up a bit. Once I got them working right, we applied high voltage to the fusor and at about only 40 kilovolts, I noticed the gun currents were wobbling around and I told Bob to hold off on raising the voltage as I had gun issues. He asked if I wanted to remove the high voltage, I told him no that I had them balanced before high voltage and I wanted to balance them at voltage. (note: 40kv was not a full voltage for their normal runs which usually exceeded 100kV) I was worried that I had an extractor connection issue. So, I used the binoculars to look down the corridor into the corner mirror to visually check the wires on the guns. I could not believe my eyes!
I could see four red ion beams through the stainless-steel gun bodies, it was like the guns were transparent!!
Hull: Wow! Were the guns still visible?
Gene: Yes! They were, but the red ion-beams were just sitting there in mid-air with the guns still visible. I got up from the control table and walked down the tunnel and looked around the edge.
I was 6 feet from the fusor and looking right at it. The beams were there! Bob wanted to know what I was doing. I told him, come here, quick. I ran down the tunnel to get out of it as it was narrow and the two of us would not fit. I told bob to go down and look at the fusor. He said to go shut the high voltage off. I told him we didn’t want to touch anything right now. He got halfway down the tunnel and must have seen the fusor in the mirror and the beams. He turned around and looked at me. I said take a quick look around the corner. As he came out of the tunnel, he said, what is that, the ion beams? I told him that is exactly what they are. Bob immediately turned the high voltage down and the beams faded a lot but could still be seen. I turned the extractor voltage down and they were gone.
Hull: Gene this is incredible
Gene: yeah, we thought so too. Bob and I did everything to reproduce it. The guns’ extractor currents came up much more stable this time. No beams. As Bob turned up the voltage, the ion gun currents remained stable, no wobbling and no beams. After a few more tries we gave up and ran the experiment normally in total silence. Bob took his notes of the experiment and we shut the cave system down.
Hull: What did bob say? Did you guys talk about this? I have talked with Bob, Fred and George and they never mentioned this.
Gene: Fred and George were never told about this and Bob is not going to tell you about it.
Hull: What!!?
Gene: Bob and I did talk about this for a little while that day, but he told me that “We never saw this”. He told me to not tell anyone about this. He said if we can’t reproduce it, we can’t very well report it, and we will not report it! So, that was that.
Hull: Thanks for that amazing insight Gene. Is it OK if I mention it to Bob in my next phone call to him?
Gene: Sure. I don’t care. He’ll probably deny it ever happened. Go ahead. I know what I saw and so does he.

Needless to say, I got on the phone to Bob the next day while at work. I had called Bob only about 3 times thus far. I knew he was a busy man and did not want to wear out my welcome. He sounded cheery and said he had a few minutes and I was not disturbing him. I posed a couple of important, but softball questions to warm him up. Here is the gist of the phone call from this point on. Bob knew I was talking to everyone on the team as I was sending him regular Team member list updates. This was a service I provided all team members.

Hull: I was talking on the phone last night with Gene…
Bob: yes, he’s a good man.
Hull: He mentioned that you and he had an incident at the cave where you both observed what appeared to be ion beams showing through the gun bodies as if the bodies were transparent to them.
Note: Not only was there a very pregnant and noticeable pause, but I could hear an definite exhale over the phone. He had drawn a breath and blown it out.
Bob: Richard, I can’t speak to anything that is not reproducible. I hope you can understand that.
Hull: Yes and I can respect that you wish to be candid about this, but did you see the beams?
Bob: I saw something I could not understand or reproduce and that is all I want to say here about that.
Hull: I understand and thank you for your answer and I respect your forthrightness and explanation.
Bob: Thanks, I appreciate that.
The conversation continues for a minute or two on other questions. I thanked him and the called ended. For me this was a full confirmation of what Gene told me. This was so amazing to me that I had to mull over how this could possibly happen as there is no physics to readily explain it from my point of view. I was fully aware if you take gold foil that is opaque and thin enough and heat it, it can become transparent to a limited degree. With some thin films, electrical potentials applied can darken a window pane and control its transmission to a degree. This can make a transparent item virtually opaque, but not a dense solid object transparent.

Incident two:

I figured that George Bain, as a fellow electronics engineer, and head of the project, might like to hear about this revelation. I phoned George about a day later. Again, everyone knew by now that I was talking to everyone else due to my Team listing supplied to all of them. I once again softened George up with a few lead-in questions. I also knew of his past issues with Gene at this point as both had discussed their issues in previous calls.

Hull: George I have learned of an amazing event to which I am told you are not aware of.
George: Oh really, what was it?
Hull: Gene told me of an event that occurred that both he and Bob Hirsch observed. I have more or less verified this with Bob who was cagey about it, but effectively confirmed Gene’s story.
Note: I retold the story above to George. Listening carefully for his reaction yielded a long pause on his end. So long in fact, my brain raced ahead wondering… is George upset over not being told by his team? Is George trying to compose a response? What will George say? Again a long exhale before speaking followed by a totally shocking response. He vaults immediately into speech…
George: You know, I might have had a similar experience.
Hull: What!!?
George: One night, I was there by myself rather late. We were scheduled to have a big group of people come and see the pit fusor in action, doing fusion. I had raised the fusor up as high as it would go and in view of the operating control panels. As you might know, the guns are very touchy to get aligned and ready for a run. I was determined not to have to fiddle with the guns during the group visit and was going to balance them as best I could. I had learned that by putting a little high voltage on the fusor the guns seemed to be a bit easier to adjust. I had applied about 20kV to the fusor and the guns were balancing well. As I raised the extractor voltage some pulsing was noticed this was a bit unusual, but I though I would master it. I happened to look up at the fusor and I saw what looked like red beams or streaks of light. I looked around to locate a source of red light in the room that might be reflecting off the fusor platform. I couldn’t find any red light and looked a little harder at the red-light streaks. They appeared to be located at the ion gun location along their axis. I removed my glasses and rubbed my eyes as I was weary and tired. I put my glasses on and thought, are these the ion beams or am I burning the guns up to the point the exteriors are at red heat? I quickly turned all extractor voltage and high voltage off. I got up and went over to the fusor and felt the air rising off the guns. I felt nothing like hot air rising. I gently tapped on one of the gun bodies. I felt no sharp burn. It turned out the guns were merely warm to the touch, which was normal. I got back to it and the guns balanced normally, no beams noted. So, I just let this incident slide. It never happened again the whole time I was there, and I have never thought about it until this phone call. At the time, I thought maybe I was just tired. I noted the gun bodies tended to shimmer about the red beams when it occurred. That was when I panicked and felt these were heat waves coming off red hot guns and shut it all down.
Hull: Wow, George, thanks very much! It appears that for lack of communication an interesting aspect of the fusor effort was overlooked.
George: It may have been. I might not have been just seeing things that night.

After a bit more discussion and the call ended. Both Fred Haak and Steve Blaising were amazed at hearing about this double incident at different times observed by the people.
In effect, this is my big revelation that would probably have never been uncovered had I not had full access to the team members. Interestingly It would be another year before my in-person interview with Bob Hirsch. I pressed him to the mat a bit and he added, I will admit that what I saw looked like what you would expect ion beams of hydrogen would look like, but it wasn’t reproducible therefore, it wasn’t amenable to scientific study. Both Gene and Bob were also amazed that George claimed to have seen what they saw as well. Make of this what you will.

There were just too many modifications and systems run in the time frame of this missive to elaborate on. I will enclose a number of images from this general period of high activity. The first batch will be added to over time.

Richard Hull
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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.

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Note to all who would like to respond or ask questions

Post by Richard Hull » Thu Mar 12, 2020 7:43 pm

This site is informational and will not accept replies from the regular users. As Frank noted only admins can post or respond here. However if you have issues, questions or comments, please post in the "Fusion, Past, Present, Future" history forum. I will be happy to respond. We decided this should be an archive of facts and images between those admins who have interacted with or have information to share related to the ITT-Farnsworth effort of the 60's. This includes interactions with the team members or Farnsworth family and any past or current work in that effort.

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.

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A historical intermission 1960-1966

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Mar 16, 2020 10:20 pm

Project Sherwood under the AEC became declassified in 1958. As conferences were held in the open, fusion researchers got to see what everyone else was doing, world-wide. A realization swept over all the many systems spread over many efforts that no one was close to the hoped for, expansion of one of the most promising systems directly to a working fusion reactor. All of a sudden, the emphasis shifted within the scientific community from hands-on technological development to doing basic research related to plasmas. No program was even close to doing sufficiently potent fusion, and problems with every effort seemed as if there was just no direct system under study that could be made into a working reactor.

At the very time Farnsworth-ITT was blossoming, congress was rethinking the funding of the entire AEC, CTR program!! From the late 50’s into the 1963 time frame the yearly budget for all CTR work in the U.S. was on the order of 30 million dollars. Congress was promised a working reactor by the mid 1960’s, back in the 50’s. The members of congress were stunned that all the different machines were not yielding any path forward and befuddled that all the scientists were now talking pure fusion and plasma research, only! Congress wondered why they should continue to fund all these machines if the program could not self-limit its work and needs by getting rid of the least likely candidates. One wise senator exclaimed “We could keep building these machines until the cows come home if some control is not forthcoming”

The budgets were cut to the bone and 22 million was all that was offered by congress in 1963 for the 1964 budget. One can’t help but wonder if ITT was not taking all of this in. Within 1 more year, they would be moving to increase funding to either make a quick win or try and shop around for someone to free them from their yoke of fusion desperation. As it turns out, ITT would come to do both. The 1965 budget would be more than all preceding years. The 1966 budget would be the peak of funding with the increase directed, not so much on fusion, but in funding other fusion luminaries at colleges and researchers in fusion to read their paper produced by Hirsch and “comment for cash” on what, in their opinion, might be considered the best place to move the fusion effort out of ITT. 1967 would be the last full year with the last-ditch effort at ITT. There would be little advancement made, at all. The end would come with the total rejection by underfunded CTR section of the AEC, refusing to take over the ITT fusion effort.

In short, fusion would be in the doldrums throughout the 1960’s due to a lack of interest and failure of the fusion community to make steps forward in the effort.

This little piece of big-boy fusion history is taken from Bromberg’s book “Fusion”. (one of the best histories). To that, I have added my take on this critical period related to both “big fusion” and ITT’s role in fusion. I felt a bit of perspective would be in order at this point before continuing with the temporal flow in my historical reports.

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.

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Pontiac Street - a bit of a tour

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Mar 20, 2020 11:56 am

The Pontiac Street ITT-Farnsworth plant had been the old Capehart plant which Farnsworth bought to Create CapeHart-Farnsworth, (entertainment electronics), they made TVs, Radios, Phonographs, etc. Much like ITT, Farnsworth had three companies working under one roof. Farnsworth Radio, Farnsworth optical, and the Capehart-Farnsworth, retail division. Farnsworth Radio made U.S. military communications gear for the Korean war, The optical tube division made custom vacuum tubes for the military and space and missile applications. The retail division sold what the public wanted in the way of electronics.

ITT bought out Farnsworth, solely for the military contracts and the electron tube optical division. This became the well known and respected ITT Federal tube division. ITT would kill the entertainment division shortly after taking over the plant. The concrete arch way over the main Pontiac street entrance, contained the deeply etched "Farnsworth" name. ITT quickly filled this in with matching pigmented cement. In 1999 you could still make it out if you looked hard.

I was treated to a half day tour of the closed down facility on my first week long visit by Fred Haak and Gene Meeks. They took me all over the facility telling me what areas were what during the 1959-1968 time frame. Fred Haak was reassigned in the 1968 closing of the Fusion program. He went back to the optical tube design labs to pick up his old job in photo sensitive coating engineering, being a chemist. Fred worked there until he retired in the late 80's. He filled Gene and myself in on what ITT did with the old fusion areas.

Everyone except Fred and Steve Blaising, followed Phil out to Utah to take part in his abortive startup of PTFA (Philo T. Farnsworth and Associates). It lasted less that a full year before collapsing due to no funding or significant contracts that could keep the place open. All the talent that uprooted themselves from their homes in Indiana to follow Phil were stuck in Utah in new homes they could not support. PFTA was to be the last epic fail of Phil's life.

I came into the Pontiac street plant through a large warehouse loading dock door that the gate guard opened for us. This opened into an aircraft hanger sized open floor that was bare. I was told by my docents that this was where the Capehart-Farnsworth TVs, Radios, Large consoles, etc, were assembled and tested. Gene noted that hundreds of workers and technician kept the place humming. ITT would use it as a special assembly line area for any number of contract filling processes once they killed the entertainment division.

We wandered over into the administrative part of the huge building where all the labs and offices were located. I got to see the dingy basement room they first struggled to get a toe-hold into the bell-jar era. We then went up stairs to their 1962-68 areas. I have annotated the images below. I got to see Phil's office on the second floor and the rather roomy offices on one side of the first floor hallway. Across the hallway was the very large Pit and Cave lab areas. Their old lab room was large, long and empty with special flooring and according to Fred It was used for a laminar flow area by ITT. ITT had converted the team's large storage area to about 6 tiny offices. I video taped some of this and a took a few photos. Most of the images below are video frame grabs from 1997 Sony video camera era technology. Enjoy.

Richard Hull
ITT pontiac ano 1.jpg
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ITT pontiac ano 10.jpg
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.

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Outside ITT 1964-1968 - Other fusion work

Post by Richard Hull » Thu Apr 02, 2020 11:26 am

What this is all about

I write this as an aside to the flow of the ITT Farnsworth history effort. I find it amazing that a number of key dates coincide with the ITT versus the outside fusion efforts by the AEC and some of ITT's competitors.
The outside world and its fusion efforts could have written the play book for the ITT-Farnsworth fusion saga. check it out.


With Project Sherwood ending, the U.S. fusion work was no longer secret and conferences on nuclear fusion advances were being held all over the world, after 1962. Large companies Like GE and General Atomics had leaped into the fusion research arena in the mid to late 50’s. While their corporate efforts were mostly in the area of research and small-scale studies, they felt that they needed to be ready should the fusion opportunity arise. Both companies were already involved with fission power as it started to come on-line, it would be nice to have a staff on hand who were at least competent in the basics of fusion having already been doing research in the field.

Could ITT looking at fusion being investigated by a competitor, GE, in 57-58, have helped the new president of the firm, Geneen, urged onward by the Admiral, to start up a small fusion effort at ITT? It turns out a lot of “timing” of key dates and periods related to fusion between ITT, GE, General Atomics, the AEC and its CTR division, (Controlled Thermonuclear Research), are closely wed and for all the same reasons. What follows bears thinking about. Once ITT was involved, it is certain they not only kept tabs on what they were doing, but also watched what was going on in the world of fusion research by competitors in the effort and within the now more open AEC and its CTR division.

Key date: GE gets involved with fusion research 1956-57. ITT follows suit in 1958-59.
(Note: If you really want to see this period outside of ITT It will be good to read the chapter in Bromberg’s book, Fusion, entitled “the doldrums” Specifically pp 134-144.)

The CTR division of the AEC coming out of Project Sherwood, had a lot of machines doing 4 different processes in 1962 that were headed nowhere. All of the 50’s work was “lets build this idea and see what happens”. When it didn’t turn out well, they built a bigger modified version. (Sound familiar?) They were just shooting from the hip, but had developed a number of standards related to how fusion might be done and had come into the 60’s with what had worked, somewhat and yet, had some hope behind their process, while other machines were foundering. Funding was a bit tight as congress was not seeing much for its money.

The two or three yearly conferences on fusion in various countries were attended by scientists from all over the world. The U.S. fusion physicists found that what they had hopes for had already been tried by the British and or the Russians and abandoned. The Russians, especially, had experimental facts and mathematics that indicated most of the work of the Americans would go nowhere. By 1964, many fusion programs were in the doldrums. Reduced funding and bad news came from almost every conference. This caused a shift from building to focusing on “plasma studies” to develop fusion mathematics and hopefully create a path forward for fusion.

Another Key date: 1965 - ITT only just begins to do real fusion in a world that is all excited about fusion but in a nation whose scientists are not building, but in deep study over plasma dynamics to try and find a theoretical and scientific way forward. GE, seeing a slowdown in real fusion efforts, and having a couple of big fission plant projects that are real and moving forward, decide to form an investigation into its fusion research efforts called “the Cook Commission” in 1965. The commission advises GE to continue only a limited bit of fusion work and if nothing breaks within the company to, ultimately, phase GE out of fusion research in a year or two.

ITT had to see this as a signal. What’s worse, the AEC was also looking at the CTR division and its lack of progress and as early as 1964. It formed the “Allison-Herb Commission”. This was to issue a formal written report within a year to determine if the AEC should even continue the fusion power research under CTR! The commission came back with a report in 1966 that said that CTR should remain intact as the effort was a good one, but admitted they had no way of knowing when or how much funding would be needed before a practical fusion energy source would be in hand. They also noted that if for “international prestige”, alone, the U.S. and the AEC needed an advancing CTR division.

Another key date: 1966 - GE starts to back out of fusion. The AEC Allison-Herb commission finds that fusion will most likely require huge amounts of funding and perhaps years before real progress is made.
ITT must now feel quite alone with the fusion work being done there possibly turning into an albatross hung around their neck due to the gloomy report by the AEC. Oddly, this is the highest funded year at ITT. They start to plot a way out. Farnsworth is now gone, and Hirsch is the team leader. ITT wants to either pass the program off to a willing institution or the AEC. Hirsch is ordered to fully inform several Universities and then the AEC about the fusion work being done at ITT and ask them to report back in papers with their thoughts on the ITT effort and suggestions as to where best it might be done.
Ultimately, a large compiled report will be published by ITT and distributed to all respondents. Using this report, ITT corporate will next seek to send Hirsch with his fusor demo fusor to Washington to present the work to the CTR division.

Key date: 1967 The U.S. and the AEC are selling and boosting the idea of fission-based power as more electricity is being produced by fission with each new fission power station coming on-line. It is great for GE and Westinghouse who are prime contractors and for the power companies who were very reluctant until the government offered insurance protection, huge loan assists, and free training for operational personnel. Fusion was on the back burner for sure. Fission was the power of today, and on-line, now!

Hirsch walked into a stacked deck at the AEC. Amasa Bishop had been a fusion researcher at Princeton, and at the height of the CTR doldrums in 1966, had his arm twisted to become the assistant head of the entire CTR division at a very bad moment. Bishop came into a program that had poorly performing research centers operating machines going nowhere. These scattered fusion research centers were ill-funded, and many were hanging on by a bare thread. Each research center jealously guarded their meager funding. Bishop pushed hard for each center to perform as best as possible for the sake of keeping CTR alive in hope of better days.

The IECF fusor presented by Hirsch didn’t stand a chance. Hirsch noted that those assembled from the various research centers listened politely, asked questions, but in the end, Bishop sent a formal letter to ITT and Hirsch stating that the AEC, CTR division could not, at that time, take on and fund or transfer the ITT effort to another research center.

ITT stepped out of the fusion business that overlapped the GE effort’s birth and death dates at a time when fusion at the AEC and CTR was in the doldrums and fission was the ascending God of energy. Money remained in the reduced 1968 ITT fusion budget as the program ended in the early days of summer in 1968.

This is written as an outside observation related to ITT and outside forces that probably drove their decision-making process, and assumes they were keeping a rather close watch over the outside fusion world and competitors. I will continue with the ITT Farnsworth fusion history for 1967-68 soon.

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.

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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Apr 22, 2020 3:58 pm

The End 1967-68

The fold up of the ITT fusion effort was uneventful to say the least. The fusion that was done was not much better than in 1966, certainly for the Pit. Some new ideas were tried it is known but nothing came of them in the form of advances. The effort just slowly fizzled out with a whimper rather than a sharp, axing cut-off of a "going concern".

Farnsworth was gone, having been terminated in medical retirement in mid 1965. Hirsch now oversaw the direction of research. ITT was joining every other private company like GE and General Atomics and toning down or getting out of active fusion research. It was like the entire corporate funded fusion business caught the fusion flu. The CTR program was in a crunch at the AEC. Money there was tight, and Amasa Bishop was being told to select fusion programs to axe or suffer less funding spread among both the good and bad experimental efforts. The word was out; fusion was in the doldrums and the shine was off the apple.

Hirsch had sent out the invitations for paid comments from colleges and institutions as instructed and the responses were slowly drifting in. ITT managed to get a formal hearing and demo before the AEC of their fusion effort to interest the AEC in funding the effort while ITT held all the patents. This Demo could not have come at a worse possible time for the CTR program to approve any new venture on its part. Hirsch would work with first Gene Meeks to assemble his demo cart fusor and once Meeks was allowed to go off on his own to produce his Mark II prime in his own area, Steve Blaising would step in as Hirsch’s main technician. Steve had just replaced the departing Jack Fisher who went to work for International Harvester.

While true that Gene had his own system and served as his own technician, Steve Blaising was the sole full-time technician in mid-1967 and would spend most of his time on the Pit team’s efforts. He would be released by George Bain to Hirsch as needed. Bain was not pleased with the decision to effectively elevate Gene to a separate fusion effort. According to Robert Hirsch, “Gene had ideas and I was so busy, I just let him fly off on his own and he did well, indeed.” The Mark II prime claimed numbers higher than the Cave fusor. The numbers were so high that both George and Bob had to “dial Gene back” as his area was not shielded. Gene told me he would often run it when alone to test out various tweaks he had made, in spite of his superiors' commands.

The Cave was still functioning but more in preparation for data runs for Hirsch’s written report effort. The cave effort was frozen in the form of the fusor seen in the attached photos and in the form now retained by the family member in California handed down upon the death of Kent Farnsworth. Kent, (son of Phil Farnsworth), had dreams of restoring the family held cave fusor to functionality. Frank Sanns reported to me that upon examining it in its current state, that it will most likely never see fusion again. This mimes what Gene Meeks told Kent in the taped interview in 2001. Gene told Kent directly, “Do you guys have any idea what it would take to get this operational again?” No one present at that time had ever operated a fusor and felt that since they had an intact fusor from the cave that it might be rather easy to spin it up again.

What they had was the pinnacle of 8 years-worth of effort and expense by the Farnsworth/ITT effort. Externally, it looked great, but the guns and guts needed a lot of work, insulators that were welded on to the fusor were broken or damaged to the point that they would have to be bored out and replaced. Many of the ion guns had missing or burned out custom made coated filaments, etc. These filaments were ordered by the team from the on-site ITT tube lab. In short, the team had tremendous on-site facilities and capabilities to do their complex, custom work for them. It they could dream it, it would be forthcoming.

Hirsch would ultimately take his fusor demo to the AEC review committee in Washington, plug it into a common wall outlet at the front of the meeting room, and with D-T in it, would knock out 10e8 n/sec. Impressed more with Hirsch’s polished presentation than with the fusor, they wrote a nice letter saying that they could not undertake the IEC fusion program at that time. Hirsch came back to work on the major bound and published report on the ITT fusion effort. It would be sent to the AEC and all the paid respondent colleges and institutions who participated via contractual commentary.

Meeks and Blaising would both note to me that from fall of 1967 to late spring 1968 the effort effectively marked time. George Bain kept the Pit team busy as they had a decent 67-68 budget. George worked the Pit effort until early-May in 1968 with over half the budget unspent according to him.

There is some uncertainty about the last fusion done at ITT. George felt that the Pit fusor was the last operational system to do fusion in early-May, however Gene claims he ran the Mark II prime in late-May after George had already left to join PFTA in Utah. Steve Blaising was the last man standing as Gene left at the end of May. Steve said that he helped Bob Hirsch load his car on the last day of the effort in early-June.
Of course, I have already told the story of how Steve was more of less forgotten and when the Admiral came into the building in June, he was stunned to see that Steve was just shining a seat everyday by himself. Steve was present a couple of days later when being re-assigned to his old post in the tube lab when the Admiral was summarily fired from ITT! Steve said his jaw dropped when, in his presence, the Admiral was told by a fellow from the New York office that Furth’s services were no longer required.

Both Steve and Fred Haak noted that the old fusion lab remained untouched until late in 1968 as they would roam down there from time to time. It was Fred who told me he came down one day and they were knocking down the cave with sledge hammers and all the broken borated cinder blocks were being tossed into the Pit to fill it up with rip-rap prior to having concrete poured to restore the floor.


What happened to the fusors? The team members?

The Fusors

While many fusors were made and tested, only the last and most successful fusors, (four in number), were of significance.

The Pit Fusor - It is known that the pit fusor was removed and used for its many vacuum parts (Steve Blaising)

The Cave Fusor - This fusor was given or loaned to BYU and followed the PTFA and the fusion team members, Meeks and Bain, to Utah. Upon the 1972 end of the BYU-Meeks period of use, it was returned to the Farnsworth family. It made the trip back to Fort Wayne where it resided in the basement of their State Street home and an outside building until the early 2000's when Kent Farnsworth created an ad hoc team that included Gene Meeks. They gathered together to consider very far reaching plans to not only get the cave fusor going again but do a sort of "go fund me" project to reopen the Farnsworth fusion research effort. To my knowledge it never went any farther than this one single highly charged and hype pumped gathering. Throughout the meeting, Gene would keep stressing what he would need before he would get involved in a serious way. Following the death of Kent and thereafter, Pem Farnsworth, the Cave fusor would once again cross the nation to California where it resides to this day in a rather private museum. The son of Kent Farnsworth recently, (Jan 2020), gathered a group of people and a couple of others for a formal visit and look-see at his home. (Reported elsewhere on

The "Serving Cart", AEC Demo Fusor - This Hirsch-Meeks-Blaising creation was seen in the back of Hirsch's car by Steve Blaising as he helped Hirsch pack to leave Fort Wayne in June 1968. Hirsch, ever proud of his introduction to AEC fusion via this device, proudly had it on display in his office during my 1999 visit. I took many photographs and a video of it and Bob in his Washington D.C. office at that time. It is assumed he still retains it.

The Mark II prime - Oddly, this superlative fusor just disappeared. A source of irritation, mystery and search for Gene Meeks ever since the day he left ITT. Gene looked forward at our first meeting as he met Fred Haak for the first time since 1968. He hoped Fred might know something about his fusor since he remained at ITT. Fred could not recall ever seeing it again. Likewise, when Paul and I pulled Steve Blaising and Gene together in 2001, Gene held out hope, once again, that with Steve's bad luck of being in the area long after the last man, Hirsch, left the scene, he might learn of the fate for his Mark II prime. Alas, Steve noted that other than the model shop coming and taking the Pit fusor, when he finally got reassigned, the entire fusor area including Gene's room with the Mark II prime was still intact. Gene noted that he wrote ITT in Fort Wayne on PTFA letterhead inquiring after the Mark II prime. He said he never received a reply. I have seen several letters on PTFA letter head signed by Gene Meeks, but Have not seen the ITT inquiry letter. Most of Meeks letters were of inquiries related to vendors or revolved around contract requests during his PTFA time. It is assumed that the Mark II prime followed the same fate of the Pit fusor, cannibalized for useful parts.

The People

Philo Farnsworth – Forcibly retired for medical reasons by ITT in 1965. Moved to Utah in 1966 and would start up his PFTA business in late 1968 based on many goals related to clean water, fusion, and engineering services. Three of the Fort Wayne fusion crew would join him there. PFTA Failed before 1970 and Philo T. Farnsworth passed away in 1972. Phil, after 1960, would not be an active participant in the daily work on fusion research down in the lab. Instead his main role was in keeping ITT interested in the project and conferring with patent attorneys, the admiral and other scientists and mathematicians at Pontiac street. Naturally, he was a major contributor along with the admiral to increasing every year's budget for the work on the fusor project.

Gene Meeks – Joined PFTA in Summer of 1968. He would work there as an engineering assistant until PFTA went belly-up. He would be the only one to remain in Utah as Phil saw to it that Gene had a position at BYU operating the cave fusor for Professor Andrew Gardner as a training system in a student lab there. This ended in 1972 and Gene drifted back to Fort Wayne where he worked for 4 years for Vycor Corporation doing industrial electronic coatings. He would then work at two or three TV repair shops through the 80’s and end his working career as the projectionist at a Fort Wayne movie theater.

George Bain – Joined PFTA in May of 1968. He would give it his all to try and make the new business work after selling his Fort Wayne home. He would be hit hard when PFTA went under. He never quite got back into high paid engineering work like he had at RCA or ITT and would ultimately move to Bloomington, Indiana where he opened and ran his own business; a small camera and photo shop with the 1 hour development so popular in the 80’ and 90’s.

Fred Haak – Fred stayed with ITT and was re-assigned to his old job in the chemical lab and would work on the chemistry of cathode coating for star-light scopes in ITT’s military tube application division. He would retire with full benefits in the late 1980’s.

Steve Blaising – Steve, like Fred, stayed with ITT and went back to the tube lab. He noted that he had a solid job at ITT, a new wife and that he was not going to pick up and move to Utah. Steve would work for ITT until he retired with full benefits in the early 90’s.

Bob Hirsch - fared better than all the others, by most standards. He was immediately hired by the AEC CTR division and would become its head by 1971. In 1972 he would be made head of the new controlled fusion division of the AEC, shutting down many failing and ailing experiments, promoting a “demonstration of real useful power producing fusion”, even if it was just a less than unity conversion. This meant that he pushed for the best system at the time, the Russian Tokamak! Bob built the division into a 100-million-dollar budget fusion arm of the AEC. He was slick and forceful. Ultimately, he would leave in 1977 for a Job with Raytheon and then again to the VP of research at ARCO petroleum. All the time he was a “Washington energy policy insider”. He knew people in-power and they liked him. His real coup was the HAARP project (High Altitude Auroral Research Project). It was both a scientific and military endeavor. Green Peace listed him as an enemy for pumping megawatts of RF into the ionosphere to study its effect on weather and other military aspects. Ultimately, as it became a political hot potato, ARCO handed the entire program and its management over to Hirsch who formed a new company around HAARP in Washington, D.C. Never far from energy politics and its science, Hirsch became the go-to guy for future energy efforts in D.C. and the last contact I had with him, he was working for the Rand Corporation writing on future energy policy.

“The Admiral” – Fredrick R. Furth – I have little on his history after ITT beyond the knowledge that he retired to a North Carolina retirement community and passed away in 1999.

Richard Hull
Final cave anno..jpg
Cave Fusor image 3.jpg
Cave Fusor image 3.jpg (204.14 KiB) Viewed 4927 times
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.

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Richard Hull
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Real name: Richard Hull

Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Jul 24, 2020 7:01 pm

As I continuously pour over the many documents floating around regarding ITT Farnsworth efforts, I found this attached letter.

It points to the fact that even before the Farnsworth team got to the little basement room, (April 1959), Salinger and many others were questioning Farnsworth's basic premise!!

The letter specifically asks about the reversal role of electrons versus ions and seeks a rebuttal to what seems to be a Los Alamos review in the negative related to Farnsworth's proposed methodology for doing fusion using an electron negative well system. I could find no response to this interesting and critical letter related to ITT's physicist questioning Los Alamos regarding Farnsworth's ideas.

It is obvious that ITT and Farnsworth plowed on with his original idea, which we now know came to naught.

Richard Hull
Wrong path letter electrons.pdf
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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.

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