End of Philo Farnsworth at ITT
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I was, again, talking with Steve Blaising for a few hours on the phone last night.

He is a storehouse of info equal to Gene Meeks!! He was around many times when Gene was not and vice-versa.

I have to relate this as it is so very tragic and unreported until this instant before you all.

As you may know, the Admiral, Fritz Furth, was the huge overseer of the ITT fusion effort. Phil was the titular Fort Wayne project head. The Admiral sought in 1963 to hire a Phd in Physics to give the project a polished and formal scientific cachet for the sake of appearances and publishing purposes. It seems that ITT HQ was not real hot on Phil or his methods. The Admiral had to juggle the personality differences between Bob Hirsch and Phil. Bob was formally hired in 1964 fresh from his doctoral awarding. Phil and Bob, while highly respectful of each other, had immediate differences. These grew as Phil sensed that the brash and highly active Phd was moving too fast and in directions he was not sure of. Add to this the fact that Phil was odd man out in the multi-Phd discussions which the Admiral arranged to write proposals and papers. Many outside Phds interfaced with Bob and Phil in 1964 as the intellectual and scientific side of the venture was to be logged and fresh proposals placed on the table. Some few colleges signed on as small test points for the IEC concept.

The differences between Phil and Bob grew to the point that Bob had the expensive "Cave" constructed where his experiments could be run in parallel to Phil's. This created a competitive air in the program and actually raised the level of performance of all systems. It also created friction, mistrust and cliquish sub units.

Phil was visibly hurt and for the first time, he and the Admiral had words about the direction of the program.

The proverbial straw that "broke the camel's back" came in 1965 when some big wigs and physicists from the Franklin institute showed up for a demo of the fusor systems and IEC concepts. Phil, The Admiral, Bob Hirsch and Steve Blaising were in the room together and the visiting physicists asked questions regarding the fusor and IEC. Phil mentioned tht the electron recycle and transit time needed to be lengthened. One physicst frowned and asked just what he meant by that. The Admiral, maybe sensing that Phil might not use the proper terms, immediately stepped in and asked Bob Hirsch to explain the concepts Phil had just introduced. Steve sensed the deep hurt in Phil and saw his head droop, his chin went nearly to his chest in silence. He stood motionless and quiet for about 1 minute. Then, very quietly, Phil stepped back to the rear of the assembled party in the Pit room and slipped, un-noticed, out the door.

What a kick in th' balls (pardon my french)

The Admiral had unwittingly sealed all their fates, but Phil would be the first to fall.

After some minutes, the Admiral spoke up loudly among the group and asked Phil to step forward and talk specifically about the construction of the device.

He was not to be found in the room. A bit miffed, he asked Steve if he knew where Phil was. Steve answered that he did not know.... perhaps a mensroom break. The Admiral dispatched Steve detailing him to return with Phil. Steve checked Phil's office. He was not there. He had him paged, again, to no avail. He finally checked with the East gate guard post. It seems that Phil had called Pem and she had just picked him up. Steve returned with the news. The Admiral's feelings at this time were unknown. (Steve couldn't read him at this point).

Phil Farnsworth went home and started a drunken bender which would never see him back in the Pontiac street plant as an employee ever again. Months passed with no Phil. Bob was preparing the IEC article for publication regarding the fusor and would check with Phil at his home at his bedside for approval, which he never gave. Bob offered to include Phil's name as one of the authors. He refused. He ultimately went to their property in Maine to "dry out", but it was too late. In November, or thereabouts, of 1965, ITT had had enough and Phil was medically retired. The Admiral put Bob hirsch in charge in Phil's place and the rest is history.

This key event was never reported in the biography Pem wrote. Steve mentioned that he had told Pem this when she took his interview for the book, but she seemed to not wish to believe it.

So there you have it as told to me by a guy who was there, in the room, and detailed to find Phil.

Shortly before all of this, Steve was made a full time team member, assigned directly to Bob Hirsch and transferred out of the aerospace optics division into the plasma physics division (so named section for the IEC ITT effort.)

Richard Hull

Created on Wednesday, May 23, 2001 11:07 AM EDT by Richard Hull