Founding of Fusion Research at The University of Texas at Austin.
In 1960, a Texas consortium of ten electrical power companies, Texas Atomic Energy Research Foundation, (TAERF), requested the University of Texas to organize a Nuclear Sciences Symposium for outstanding high school students. The University agreed. The companies were Central Power & Light Company, Texas Electric Service Company, El Paso Electric Company, Texas Power & Light Company, Gulf States Utilities Company, Community Public Service Company, Dallas Power & Light Company, Southwestern Public Service Company, Houston Lighting and Power Company and West Texas Utilities Company.
Harold Hanson, chair of the physics department, became involved with the symposium. He approached the TAERF directors about moving some of their plasma physics and fusion research from the General Atomic Division of the General Dynamics Corporation in San Diego to the University of Texas. Though initially there was not much interest, Hanson continued to pursue TAERF's support and on July 23, 1964 an agreement was announced for support to start in the fall ( funds were delayed until February, 1964). The grant included $200,000 to be shared by the Department of Physics, Department of Electrical Engineering and Texas A&M University. The National Science Foundation Grant to UT provided funds for Faculty Associate. Under this program, two plasma physicists, Roger D. Bengtson from Maryland and Edward Powers from Stanford joined UT.
In February 1965, a supplemental grant of $185,000 was made by TAERF to UT Physics and to UT Electrical Engineering. Physics received 2/3 of this award.
In April 1965, TAERF provided $35,000 in supplemental funds to expand the theoretical plasma physics program in the Physics Department. Dick Aamodt and N. Rostoker were recruited. Aamodt accepted an appointment however Rostoker remained in California.
In June 1965, Harold Hanson laid out to the UT Administration his plan to convince TAERF Directors to move the $1.3 million dollars they currently spend on fusion research at General Atomic in California to Texas. He further expressed his hope that they may even provide funds for a fusion research building.
During 1965-1966, the plasma physics faculty and research staff consisted of Hans Schlüter ( Diplom ’56 Gottingen, Ph.D. ’61 Munich), Melvin Oakes ( B. S. ’58 LSU, Ph.D. ’64 FSU), Erick L. Lindman Jr. (B. S. ”60, Cal Tech, M. S. ’63 & Ph.D. ’64 UCLA), E. J. Powers ( B.S. ’57 Tufts, M.S. ’59 MIT, Ph.D. ’65 Stanford), W. E. Drummond (B.S. ’50, Ph.D. ’58, Stanford), R. E. Aamodt (B.S. “58, M.S. “59 & Ph.D. “62, U. Michigan), Clifford Gardner (Mathematics Department) (A. B. ‘44, Harvard and Ph.D. ’53 New York U.) and Alan Macmahon (Ph.D. ’66, Berkeley). Aamodt, a theoretical plasma physicist, was known for his work in kinetic theory of plasmas and finite size effects in thermonuclear plasmas. He was a staff member at General Atomic before coming to Texas. Cliff Gardner, a theoretical plasma physicist specializing in magnetohydrodynamic shocks, adiabatic invariants, and supersonic flow and shock waves, had come from Princeton in January. Lindman was studying anomalous diffusion and plasma stabilization at UCLA before joining Texas. Ed Powers had been working in anomalous diffusion at Lockheed Missile and Space company. Alan Macmahon was a recent graduate of UC Berkeley where his thesis, “On Finite Gyro-radius Corrections to the Hydromagnetic Equations for a Vlasov Plasma,” had just been completed. Hans Schlüter and Mel Oakes were studying radio frequency plasma heating. Bill Drummond was working on plasma turbulence theory.
On November 29, 1965, TAERF approved $100,000 for the addition of UT plasma research faculty and senior research staff. This is in addition to the current research support that expires May 1967. Contact between TAERF and UT is maintained through Howard Drew, Executive Vice-President of the TAERF. TAERF officers were A. R. Watson, President and John Hume, Secretary and Treasurer.
December 7, 1965, Physics Department Chair Harold Hanson requested to the UT Administration the establishment of a Center for Plasma Physics and Thermonuclear Research with W. E. Drummond as Director.
January 1966, W. E. Drummond, M. N. Rosenbluth and Norman Rostoker discussed with Howard Drew, TAERF representative about a cooperative program between General Atomic and the University of Texas supported by TAERF.
In the fall of 1966, Ken Gentle was recruited from MIT and Amiram Ron of Technion of Haifa, Israel. Roy Bickerton, Chief of Experimental Physics at the United Kingdom Plasma Physics and Fusion Laboratory in Culham, England was recruited also. An offer was made to A. E. Robson of Culham and David W. Ross. Both accepted. Dave Ross had received his PhD at Harvard in 1964 and had done post-doctoral work on ionized gases at U. of Illinois with David Pines.
December 1966, University received a Center of Excellence Grant. $5,000,000 to be divided-one-third new faculty, one-third equipment and roughly one-fifth, $1,000,000 for Intern Program. Eleven departments share in the program. In physics, relativity, astrophysics and plasma sciences received grants.
From May 1, 1967 to April 30, 1969, the Texas Atomic Energy Research Foundation provided $700,000 for support of plasma physics.
In 1967, Henry Vernon Wong joined the Fusion Research Center. Vernon, born in Jamaica in 1938, attended Cornwall College (a premier high school in Montego Bay) where he graduated at the top of his class. He earned a B.Sc. degree from University College of the West Indies in 1961. In his senior year he was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and attended Wadham College at Oxford. He earned a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1964. He remained at Oxford during 1964-65 as a post-doctoral student. He was awarded a CIBA Fellowship to continue his research at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. He next joined the Laboratoria Gas Ionizzati in Rome before coming to the University of Texas.
In the Fall of 1967, Plasma Physics Division of American Physical Society held annual meeting in Austin.
In 1967, Clifford Speer Gardner, mathematician and plasma theorist, joins the Mathematics Department and collaborates with UT plasma group. More about Gardner can be found ...More
August 1968, UT Regents approved $500,000 for construction of two basement floors for plasma physics in the new PMA Building. Ground to be broken in October 1968.
August 1968, Collisionless Shock Wave results were presented at Third International Conference on Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion Research in Novosibirsk by A. E. Robson.
March 1969, Topical Conference on Collisionless Shock Waves held in Austin.
May 1, 1969-April 30, 1971, TAERF renewed support at $800,000.
In 1969, Alan Ware joins the Fusion Research Center.
July 1969, Tony Malein returned to Culham.
September 1969, Philip Little joined department from Culham Laboratory. Fred Hinton joined department.
In June of 1971, Marshall Rosenbluth, Richard Hazeltine and Fred Hinton submitted an important paper, “Plasma Transport in Toroidal Confinement Systems.” Paper was published in Physics of Fluids 15, 116 (1972).
September 1971, Richard Hazeltine joined Center. He, along with David Ross, had worked the previous year with Marshall Rosenbluth at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
On November 1, 1971, Texas Tokamak dedicated.
January 1972, A. E. Robson resigned and joined Naval Research Laboratory.
In 1976, Texas Tokamak removed for construction of TEXT.
On August 31, 1979, construction in progress on DOE sponsored TEXT tokamak in RLM Hall.
1980, Institute for Fusion Studies established. Marshall N. Rosenbluth successfully recruited to be Director and Professor of Physics.
1981, May 28, TEXT Tokamak dedicated. Project cost $10.3 million.
1987, Rosenbluth resigns as Director of Institute for Fusion Studies.
1988, David Baldwin appointed Director of Institute for Fusion Studies and Professor of Physics
1991, Director Baldwin resigns to become Associate Director, Energy Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
1991, Richard Hazeltine appointed Director of IFS. He became Chair of the UT Physics Department in 2009 and served until 2014.
2003, James W. Van Dam appointed Director of IFS. He resigned to become Research Division Director at the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, U.S. Department of Energy.
2011, Francois Waelbroeck appointed Director of IFS
Administrative and Secretarial Staff in the IFS and FRC:
"Reaching for the Stars"
Film made by General Atomics, a division of General Dynamics in Torrey Pines, CA.
Film generouly digitized by the Texas Archive of Moving Images.
In 1960, the Texas Atomic Energy Research Foundation made a movie at General Atomics entitled "Reaching for the Stars.' The movie was to inform the public of the potential for fusion and the efforts made by the Texas Atomic Energy Research Foundation, a consortium of ten investor owned Texas utilities, in support of this goal. There were two versions made.
In 2016, William "Bill" Muston, Manager of R&D for Oncor, a regulated electric transmission and distribution service provider, had in his possession two reels of 16 mm film version of the "Reaching for the Stars" films. Bill had previously work for TAERF. He contacted Mel Oakes and asked if there could be some use for them. He brought the reels to Austin and the two decided that Mel would try to get them digitized and evaluate them for possible inclusion on the Physics Department History web site. Mel contacted Christina Bryant, Administrative Coordinator for the Texas Archive of the Moving Image organization. They kindly agreed to digitize the film at no cost and provide two dvds.
Viewing the reels revealed that there were two versions of the film. The earlier version from 1960 included only footage from the General Atomic Laboratory, however, a 1964 version included a few plasma labs at the University of Texas at Austin. Several General Atomic scientist, Marshall N. Rosenbluth and William E. Drummond, eventually came to the University of Texas. They are present in both versions. Both version are on this website. Once people are identified, subtitles will be added to identify individuals.
Partial list of names of those in the films: William E. Drummond (GA scientist and later UT faculty), Otto Friedrich (UT faculty), Hans Schlüter (UT faculty), Arwin Dougal (UT faculty). Marshal Rosenbluth (GA scientist and later UT faculty), Norman Rostoker (GA scientist), Nick Krall (GA scientist), Don Kerst (GA scientist), Edward Creutz (GA scientist), Tihiro Ohkawa (GA scientist), Park Miller (GA scientist), Gareth Guest (GA scientist), Masaji Yoshikawa. (GA scientist) Niels Bohr, (Nobel Laureate), Hideki Yukawa (Nobel Laureate).
Click the graphics below to view each film.
1964 Version with UT labs included. Partial list of names of UT related scientist in this film: Otto Friedrich, Hans Schlüter, Arwin Dougal, Marshall N. Rosenbluth, William E. Drummond.
IFS Photo Album