STORY OF THE BOY WHO INVENTED TELEVISION
Before I put this fusion story to bed there’s a few off-the-record stories I want to share with our readers. This story is taken from a taped interview with a member of Farnsworth’s original fusion team who wishes to remain anonymous; it began during June of 1964. ITT’s Board of Directors at Nutley, New Jersey sent a young PhD to join Farnsworth’s fusion team. The ink was barely dry on this man’s diploma, but since ITT’s Board Of Directors sent him, he was allowed on the fusion team and assigned the task of improving the ion guns used in the fusion tube. At first the young man appeared to be a team player but it soon became evident he was more interested in making a big name for “me, myself and I,” rather than being a player on a team who practiced legitimate scientific principles. Not long after the new guy arrived he asked our anonymous source to build him a special device for a dog and pony show he was doing for other PhDs in his field (nuclear engineering). Our source complained to PT Farnsworth that the device would cost about $35,000 ($350,000 in today’s money), and that it would take a considerable amount of time to build. After listening to his engineer’s version of the story, Farnsworth instructed him “not,” to build it because of the excessive time and cost. Furthermore, Farnsworth said, “It won’t work!”
Soon after Farnsworth said “no,” the young PhD went over Farnsworth’s head to ITT’s Board of Directors. The Board of Directors over-ruled Farnsworth and instructed him to have his engineer build the PhD’s device. Not long after the device was finished the nuclear engineer instructed our source to test it, and graph the results. When the engineer tested the device it would not produce repeatable numbers, but when he informed the PhD that he could not make a graph, he was ordered to make one anyway. After our source refused to make a bogus graph, the PhD took a French curve and some graph paper from his desk, drew a nice orderly curve on the paper, plotted points with his imagined values next to them and said, “Now, that’s how you make a graph.” Our source protested, “What if other engineers and scientists can’t replicate this experiment? The PhD said, “They wouldn’t dare because next time it will be their turn to give the presentation and they wouldn’t want me to embarrass them like that.”
Until that moment, Farnsworth’s fusion team operated by strict standards of scientific principles but it was plain to see things had changed. From that moment on, the PhD assumed ever-greater control of the fusion project until its end in early 1966. The end for Farnsworth’s participation came as he tried in vain to explain his fusion device to some PhD’s who worked for the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission), his words fell on deaf and disbelieving ears until, Admiral Furth said, “Phil, why don’t you sit down and let our PhD explain it?” Our source said, “Phil Farnsworth looked like he’d been slugged in the stomach.” Farnsworth quietly sat down, and after that meeting he went home, locked himself in a room with a large supply of alcohol and refused to come out. Soon after that incident Farnsworth’s status was changed to administrative sick leave, funding was stopped and the fusion team was re-assigned to other jobs in ITT’s Aero Space Optical Division. All were re-assigned, except the young PhD, he loaded a working model of Farnsworth’s fusion tube into his automobile and drove to Washington D.C., where he was given a job at the AEC and put in charge of “all” fusion research in North America. Steve Blaising was the last man to turn out the lights and lock the door on the fusion lab on Pontiac Street, but not before one more astonishing thing happened.
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