This segment of the Farnsworth fusion story happened towards the end of the project sometime in 1966? Despite the controversy surrounding the Farnsworth/ITT relationship, ITT continued the lucrative Farnsworth research group under the name of Aerospace/Optical Division of ITT, and probably due to the urging of Fritz Furth, Mr. Geneen prevailed upon his board of directors to continue the fusion research for one more year. Fritz came to Fort Wayne with the news that ITT had accepted the laboratory’s 1966 budget.
Phil’s doctors had stressed the need for him to slow down, but how could he comply, with a deadline to meet and everyone depending upon him? Phil was determined not to let Fritz down, and he was determined to prove his detractors wrong; the fusion would sustain.
Phil and Fritz felt all summer that they were on the brink of a breakthrough, but this coveted success stayed tantalizingly just beyond their grasp. Even as Phil’s determination increased, so did his mistrust of ITT and its intentions. Phil harbored great hopes that fusion would be used for the benefit of all mankind, but he doubted that the directors of ITT shared his humanitarian intentions. ITT is a highly profit-motivated organization, and it was naïve of Phil to expect them to go along with his philanthropic ideas. Despite his reservations about ITT’s ultimate intentions, Phil continued to try and solve the problems with the Fusor.
One day, Phil came home from the lab early in the evening with a look on his face such as I had never seen before and after dinner I asked him what was on his mind? Phil said, “We made a run today. I didn’t dare take it up as far as I wanted to, but I want you to see this.” I drove Phil down to the lab, which was dark and empty. The facility was still off limits to all but those involved in the project, but was guarded only by a single night watchman. The guard was surprised to see Phil at that hour, but he had me sign in. Phil guided me to the back of the building and unlocked the door to his lab.
Indicating a stool where I should sit in front of a row of meters he wanted me to observe, Phil took his place at the controls. There was one meter in particular he wanted me to watch. I was to report on the meter’s response as he started applying power to the Fusor, which was still resting at the bottom of the pit where it had been tested earlier in the day.
It took just a minute or two, as Phil applied the power, for the Fusor to begin coming to life. Not knowing what to expect, and with chills running up and down my spine, I kept my eyes glued on the needle Phil told me to watch, reporting its position to him as it climbed the scale. At first, the needle settled in a position about three-fourths of the way up the scale. All at once, the needle shot all the way up the scale and stuck there, pegged against its highest value. I called to Phil, “It’s gone off the scale!” Phil immediately turned off the power and the most amazing thing happened: The needle stayed right where it was. All power had been cut to the Fusor, but that needle just stayed stuck…for a period of at least half a minute after Phil had shut it off. When the needle finally started settling down, I turned to Phil, who was now staring at the needle as intently as was I. I waited for him to tell me what this meant. I could almost hear his thought wheels turning. Then he broke the silence by saying, “That’s it, I’ve seen all I need to see, let’s go home!”