Richard Hull has stayed in close touch with all the living members of the Farnsworth/ITT Pontiac Street fusion lab from the 1960s, and has compiled the most complete history of that project exists today. Sadly perhaps, as some members of the team have passed on to that Great Laboratory in the Sky, Richard is able to share with us some stories that have previously not seen the light of day.
Yesterday Richard offered up this lengthy post to the "Fusion History and News" section of the Fusor.net Forums. The story he tells, which was first told to him by the late Gene Meeks, is controversial, if not down right explosive. The money quote:
On the day of the proof of performance test, Gene was told to go into the next room and listen during the ITT testing for the high voltage call out and as it climbed, he was to play the tester spark along a massive fume hood intermittently and at the maximum fusor voltage call out he was to arc the tester closely and at a fixed point on the hood until the callout of decending fusor voltage. when he would again walk the tester loosely along the large hood. This was the illicitly generated count that launched a bigger funding from ITT to create the more successful real future fusion efforts and boost the stock as well as bring Farnsworth into the spotlight, more so than had his work in television, at least for a while.
The now-familiar photos of Farnsworth posing with the "top hat" or "bell-jar" fusor circa 1959-61 were taken as a result of the publicity campaign that ITT mounted in the wake of the demonstration that Richard describes in his post. The irony, of course, if we’re to believe Gene Meeks via Richard Hull, is that the fusor that Farnsworth is posing with here was obsolete even before the photo was taken.