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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Pontiac Street - a bit of a tour

Post by Richard Hull »

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
Attachments
ITT pontiac ano 1.jpg
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ITT pontiac ano 4.jpg
ITT pontiac ano 5.jpg
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ITT pontiac ano 7.jpg
ITT pontiac8.JPG
ITT pontiac ano 9.jpg
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 »

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 »

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.

Epilogue

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 fusor.net people and a couple of others for a formal visit and look-see at his home. (Reported elsewhere on fusor.net).

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
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FusorITT3.anno.jpg
Final cave anno..jpg
Cave Fusor image 3.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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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

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. It was only with the reversal of potentials and the acquisition of the first neutron counter in the 1961-62 time frame that any detectable fusion was done at ITT. Prior to this they only had a GM counter which was grossly misinterpreted as heralding fusion in Farnsworth's lack of knowledge of radiation detection!

Richard Hull
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Wrong path letter electrons.pdf
(3.67 MiB) Downloaded 128 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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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

As a mere point of interest, I am going to attach a PDF file below. It is the original, yet constantly updated ITT fusor team list that I started in 1998. This list was distributed only to the original living team members over the period 1998-2017. It allowed long forgotten and former team members to stay in touch, perhaps for the first time since 1968. It was much appreciated by all of the ITT team members as a service to them.

Note: all on the list are now dead, save for Robert (Bob) Hirsch who is still alive (no data given to protect his privacy). Thus, all the addresses and phone numbers are no longer valid. I just thought you might like this listing that I used regularly to stay in touch with those involved in the fusor effort during the ITT research period.

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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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Joe Gayo »

Richard,

In the "Two good years" post, you mention "Pegatron" ion guns. Is this actually "Pigatron" (or penning ion gun)? I've never heard of a Pegatron, what more common ion source shares the same structure? Was it a hot or cold cathode device? Is this what Gene Meeks used?

Thanks, Joe
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by JoeBallantyne »

In the document on the Fusor team members you mention that you couldn't find any further info on or make contact with Steve Blaising.

I found his obituary: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/th ... d=16627608

Joe.
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

Joe G: I saw that and corrected the text a week ago to "pigatron". Apparently a simple misspell originally. Apparently, in order to correct the punctuation issues coalman reloaded that text with the old one, showing the original misspell. I will correct it again. Thanks.

As to the Meeks gun design: Yes it did contain a hot filament just like the pigatron. Frank and Joe and the "perfesser" dismantled the cave fusor. Frank commented to me that it was a mess. Time and multiple relocations in moves had not treated it well. Frank said the filaments were broken, missing or otherwise compromised. The small high current external insulators were often broken. Any thought of resurrection to its former glory would be a real task in machining, and expense in time and money.

Joe B: Thank you very much for the obit. I talked with Steve in late 2016 or early 2017. I had not heard from him and tried to reach him in 2018 to no avail. As it turns out, Steve was the last team member I have actually talked with. Steve and Gene were the most valuable witnesses to the events of the ITT days. Freddie Haak was also valuable, but his stroke in 1996 left him foggy on some issues, but he still filled in things that brought out more info. from Gene. I last talked with most all of the team in 2006. George was always guarded on sensitive issues. George was a great source from my personal interview in 1999 until his stroke that took most of his speech capabilities in the early 2000s. Bob was downright tight on personal team member matters, but did let out a lot of details that were part of his job at ITT. I have initiated a current attempt to talk with Bob, who is still around.

I often wondered about some of the details that were held back, especially related to Phil and the "family", many of whom at the time, 1999-2005, were still alive. This was certainly out of common courtesy. I was after tech and daily operational details at ITT anyway so it was not of high concern to me. Still, there was much stir around the PTFA misadventure and some nasty things surfaced in more casual moments when some guards were down.

Paul was much more in touch with the "family" end of things than I was, his having formed a much earlier relationship with them. I saw and interviewed Pem Farnsworth in 1999, Gene was there with me. She gave me no new data on the tech work, but could not say enough about how Gene was really part of the family. Between Pem and Gene I got the real story of the struggle at their State Street home with Phil and Gene's effort to work around ITT's refusal to fund the fusor, (1957-1959). The effort then was a real zoo with the family working and living in and around a rather clumsy effort at doing fusion in their home. Gene noted it was a doomed effort from the start. Phil's knowledge of vacuum was dated and Genes was non-existent at that time. Gene said they struggled with "crummy" tubes that could not be pumped down to useful levels of cleanliness or vacuum. It was a real mess and a bust.

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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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

Note 4/22: Sadly, in review, this "Hull's attic" missive of great length is probably the last and best missive of any authority to ever be written and assembled of the Farnsworth ITT fusion effort. Through my own and Paul Schatskin's in-person interviews with family and team members, taped interviews both in-person and over the phone, over many years from the 1990's into the early 2000's, is all that remains of the ITT fusion period.

All persons present at that the time of the ITT effort are now dead. It might be that this chronicling is just another effort that will, itself, be lost to time for all the hard work, time and expense put into it. I certainly hope not.

Much of this material has been forced, with some effort, from team members whose memories were faded by time and is often tentative and sketchy. However, it is all that remains, like it or not. Based on this information, Paul and I might be the best to hazard any guess as to the motives, directions and possible meanings that result from our work product gathered from the living memories of the participants and Farnsworth family members.

It is to be realized that Paul and I could have received "personal slants" and notions by those we interviewed. These could be based in fact or in some personal grievance carried by those interviewed. In some cases it was obvious as we listened.

Fortunately, in my case, the engineering and science is absolutely factual. This was, originally, my sole mission. I realized that there was a clock ticking on the lives of those that remained alive. As an engineer and a fusion researcher and experimenter, my curiosity and search for facts demanded I do the work. However, intermixed with my effort were also personal opinions which were patently obvious to me and easily separated from meaningful and useful data. Personally, I was amazed at the range of love and affection, comradeships, ire, bile and bias of all interviewed. While the latter was far more present in the less educated of those I interviewed, it was also given far more weight as to the inter-personal relationships in the environment in which the work took place. (highly educated people, I find, tend to hold back personal opinions and demur from "open speak")

What is presented here will become bones to be picked over by readers now and in future. Many theories proffered based on third party readers and would-be re-writers of history.

Nonetheless, here it is, the good...(real data and information).... the bad....(the misfortunes, missteps, failures) and only a small smattering of the ugly. The ugly is always lurking about in any human endeavor. Some of the ugly will remain unspoken here. As Mark Twain noted: "Only one man alone is worth anything; two will start an argument; three or more will start a war."

As all of this is on the internet, its life and value might disappear at any moment. It is hoped that some will be printed off or transferred into a book, which itself might be relegated to a musty book shelf to be, again, lost over time. Much real truth and history has been lost to mankind over the ages. This effort may also be lost.

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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