STORY OF THE BOY WHO INVENTED TELEVISION

This segment of Farnsworth’s fusion story is taken from Pem Farnsworth’s book, “Distant Vision”.

 

Saturday, October 8th, 1960 deuterium was admitted for the first time, and a run was started. Soon after voltage was applied, a Geiger counter placed adjacent to the bell jar began registering counts which increased progressively as voltage was increased until the counter pointer was driven off it’s top scale! Just what was causing the intense radiation x-ray, gamma and/or neutrons-could not be determined.

The following Monday, when the plant’s supply room was opened, a sheet of lead was obtained to shield the Geiger counter, preventing x-ray and gamma radiation from entering the counter and permitting only neutrons to register. A deuterium-charged (fueled), run was made and a small neutron count recorded. The neutron count increased as the voltage increased. As the power-supply was quite limited, the neutron count was also limited. Regardless, this was considered a major breakthrough!

The Fusor’s operation and its “electrostatic inertial confinement,” created new words besides poissor (spherical plasma or star in a jar), “virtual cathode, (negative-charged structure less center), “permeable anode” (positive-charged, semi-outer sphere, or electron collecting grid) and their force-fields, and ion cavities became unique team vocabulary. Phil intended to employ the properties (inertia) of the atomic particles to contain themselves. These were the very same properties discovered when he learned the source of the mysterious blue-glow in his multi-pactor tubes.

Phil had a special insight into these properties, so it was no wonder that he faced enormous difficulty convincing his peers of the viability of his approach. This is often how it is when men of great vision attempt to push back the horizon of man’s understanding of the universe. Phil’s forty years of lab experience on the front of discovery prepared him for the struggles ahead. More importantly, it seems Phil recognized that God had chosen him for a special role.

By January 1961 Phil was obtaining very encouraging results and word about what was going on in his lab began leaking out. The ITT switchboard started getting calls from alert newsmen who were like bird-dogs on pheasant scent. Finally, Phil agreed to give a New York Times writer, Gene Smith, an interview. A front-page article in the late evening edition on January 3rd took the AEC to task for spending so much money on fruitless magnetic containment research when Farnsworth had put his “Fusor,” together from “spare parts” in his modest laboratory in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Indignant calls came into the Times and ITT headquarters in New York. The next morning, the following, somewhat watered down version of the article appeared again on the front page of the Times.

Phil also promised Ernest E. Williams of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette a scoop on the story and his headline read: “Farnsworth’s A-power Unit Near Reality,”” and it came out about the same time. Ernest’s article also included some of the material omitted from the Times article.

Once reported in the New York Times, the rumors of “some new process developed by the company” had brought ITT stock up to the sixteenth most active stock on the New York Stock Exchange for the year, a turnover of 4,116,100 shares. At this point Phil succeeded in getting a new contract with ITT.

The Waynedale News Staff
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