University of Texas
Fusion Research Center


TEXT, Texas Experiment Tokamak

Fusion Research Center and Plasma Physics

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.

In 1966, Robson initiated an experiment on collisionless shocks in magnetized plasma, which established the experimental capability of the new Plasma Physics center. Details of that experiment which explored turbulent heating can be seen in UT Collisionles Shock Experiment

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.

1966, John Sheffield joins the Fusion Research Center. His fusion career began in 1958 at the Harwell and Culham Laboratories in England. He moved to the University of Texas in 1966, returning to Culham in 1971 to work on preparations for the Joint European Torus (JET) experiment. In 1977, he joined the fusion division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), serving as head of the division from 1988 to 1994. From 1987 to 2003 he also served as Director for Energy Programs at ORNL and Executive Director of the Joint Institute for Energy and Environment, a joint institute between ORNL and the University of Tennessee. John grew up partly in a fishing village on the Roseland Peninsula, a scenic part of Cornwall in the west of England. He used his experiences there to set the background for his Roseland novels. Other books by John are Marienna's Fantasy and Fun in Fusion Research.

John is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Nuclear Society, served as chair of the U.S. Department of Energy's Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (1996-2000), was a recipient of Fusion Power Associates 1993 Leadership Award and 2003 Distinguished Career Award. He also serves on the Fusion Power Associates Board of Directors.

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.

March 1972, The Alcalde included an article on the Texas Tokamak. In photo at right we see Congressman Jake Pickle, 2nd from left and Bill Drummond, 2nd from right.

In 1973, David Brower joined the center as Assistant Director of Engineering.

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.

1985, Alan J. Wootton appointed Director of TEXT and Associate Director of Experimental Research, Fusion Research Center








1987, Rosenbluth resigns as Director of Institute for Fusion Studies.

1988, David Baldwin appointed Director of Institute for Fusion Studies and Professor of Physics. Roy Bickerton returns to the Fusion Research Center.

1991, Director Baldwin resigns to become Associate Director, Energy Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

1991, Richard Hazeltine appointed Director of IFS

1993, Alan Wootton becomes Director, Fusion Research Center

1998, Wootton resigns as Director to become Senior Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; ICF/NIF Diagnostic Leader and NIF Associate Project Manager.






Seminars were an important part of the Fusion Research Center and the Institute for Fusion Studies. Above is a photo of a seminar. A few identifications are:

Front row, Right to Left: Bill Drummond (with beard), Ken Gentle (forefront), Marshall Rosenbluth, Herb Woodsen, Alan Ware, Mel Oakes
Second Row:?, Jim Van Dam, Herb Berk, Perry Phillips (maybe), Wendell Horton Jr., Hank Strauss (maybe)
Third Row: Dave Ross (glasses), Jim Wiley (maybe), ?, ?, Todd Evans, Alan Macmahon (maybe),
Fourth Row: Bill Rowan (maybe), John Cary, ?, near back corner Burton Richards (maybe) in stripe shirt,

Back against the wall: ?, Mike Kotschenreuther, Ron Bravenec

Administrative and Secretarial Staff in the IFS and FRC:

Dawn East
Carolyn Valentine
Sadi Russull
Joyce Patton
Saralyn Stewart
Suzy Mitchell
Joan Gillette
JoAnn McGill
Diane Allen
Cathy Rapinett
Olga Vera
Arlen Wendt
Joan Gillette
Suzy Mitchell


The English Invasion 1966
by Bertie Robson*

Roy Bickerton, A.E. (Bertie) Robson, and John Sheffield, all from United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Culham in Oxfordshire, arrived in September 1966, paid initially, from Texas Atomic Energy Research Foundation funds. (TAERF was an association of investor-owned utilities in Texas). The group set up an experiment on collisionless shocks in magnetized plasma, which established the experimental capability of the new Plasma Physics center. Tony Malein came shortly after and worked with Ken Gentle on a linear machine exploring quasilinear damping. Bickerton returned home in 1967, leaving Robson and Sheffield to continue the collisionless shock work, ably assisted by engineer, 'Dutch' Goebel, the only Texan in the group.

When tokamak fever hit the country in 1969, UT just had to have a tokamak but Robson, who had (reluctantly) agreed to build it, insisted that it should be different from the umpteen others that were springing up everywhere, and that it should incorporate 'turbulent heating' which was already being extensively studied by the theory group led by William Drummond. Hence, the Texas Turbulent Tokamak (TTT), started in 1970, was distinguished by the application of a pulsed loop voltage of 400 kV, intended to heat the plasma to kilovolt temperature in one microsecond, after which the confinement in the tokamak magnetic field would be studied. Thus, it embodied the well-known Texan principle of “Shoot first and ask questions afterwards.” The project was funded by UT Regents ($350k), AEC ($200k) and Edison Electric Institute ($100k). (Photo at right was taken during a visit by Lev Artsimovich, "Soviet scientist and "father of the tokamak". Bertie Robson is to his right and Alan Ware is on his left. The photo was taken in the Tokamak bay.)

John Sheffield returned to England to work on JET (Joint European Torus) and Robson was joined by two Canadians, Charlie Daughney and Sid Medley, both from Culham. The TTT, built in the basement of the still unfinished RLMoore building, became operational in 1972. The picture at right shows Bertie Robson, Lev Artsimovich and Alan Ware in the basement of RL Moore Hall.

Robson then left for Naval Research Lab (NRL) and Ken Gentle took over. Jiri Jancarek, also from Culham also arrived about this time. For a while, the fusion center was known as “Culham West.” The TTT was in operation until 1980, when it was replaced by a more conventional tokamak.



"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 N. Rosenbluth (GA scientist and later UT faculty), Norman Rostoker (GA scientist), Nicholis "Nick" Krall (GA scientist), Donald Kerst (GA scientist), Edward Creutz (GA scientist), Tihiro Ohkawa (GA scientist), Park H. Miller (GA scientist), Gareth Guest (GA scientist), Masaji Yoshikawa. (GA scientist), Niels Bohr, (Nobel Laureate), Hideki Yukawa (Nobel Laureate), John Malmberg (GA scientist), Arthur Schupp (GA Scientist), F. Robert Scott, Carl Dodge (UT physics graduate student.)

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.


1960 Version without UT labs. Lits of UT related scientist in this film, Marshall Rosenbluth and William E. Drummond.


Texas Turbulent Torus Photo Album

Texas Turbulent Torus Cutaway
Texas Turbulent Torus

Texas Tokamak Dedication Program

Texas Tokamak Dedication Program

Texas Tokamak Dedication Program

Texas Tokamak Dedication Program


Torus in place, Texas Turbulent Torus


Dr. A. E. Robson, Press Conference, Texas Turbulent Torus, RLMoore Hall, UT


Dr. A. E. Robson, Texas Turbulent Torus
Trigger Sections in the Forground, Texas Turbulent Torus
Texas Turbulent Torus
Texas Turbulent Torus, Low Inductance Transmission Lines
Eight 60 kV Capacitors and Spark Gaps, Texas Turbulent Torus
Plasma Preionization Capacitor Bank, Texas Turbulent Torus
Low Inductance Transmission Lines, Texas Turbulent Torus
Diagnostics in place, Texas Turbulent Torus
Screen Room, Sid Medley, Texas Turbulent Torus. The room was made of steel sheets welded by Dutch Gobbels, then paneled.
Texas Turbulent Torus
Dutch Goebel, Charlie Parsons, Perry Phillips, Unknown
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Dutch Goebel
Unknown, Unknown, Dutch Goebel, PerUnknown, Unknown, Dutch Goebel, Perry Phillips, Unknown, Charlie Parsons, Unknown
Unknown, Perry Phillips, Bertie Robson, Charlie Parsons
Sid Medley, Unknown, Perry Phillips, Texas Turbulent Torus

Texas Experimental Tokamak

The TEXT/(TEXT-U) tokamak, formerly built and operated by the University of Texas at Austin in USA, was dismantled and shipped to China in 2004, and renamed as the Joint TEXT (J-TEXT) tokamak. The reconstruction work, which included reassembly of the machine and development of peripheral devices, was completed in the spring of 2007. Consequently, the first plasma was obtained at the end of 2007. At present, a typical J-TEXT ohmic discharge can produce a plasma with flattop current up to 220 kA and lasting for 300 ms, line-averaged density above 2 × 1019 m−3, and an electron temperature of about 800 eV, with a toroidal magnetic field of 2.2 T. A number of diagnostic devices used to facilitate the routine operation and experimental scenarios were developed on the J-TEXT tokamak. Hence, the measurements of the electrostatic fluctuations in the edge region and conditional analysis of the intermittent burst events near the last closed flux surface were undertaken. The observation and simple analysis of MHD activity and disruption events were also performed. The preliminary experimental results and the future research plan for the J-TEXT are described in detail.

Texas Experimental Tokamak "TEXT" Photo Album
About 2 years after TTT Operation

Texas EXperimental Tokamak, TEXT
RLMoore Building basement,
Colonel Jim Green in white shirt conducting tour.

Texas EXperimental Tokamak, TEXT
RLMoore Building basement,

UT Center for Thermonuclear Research

Texas EXperimental Tokamak, TEXT
From 1981 Alcalde article, Fascinating Fusion, by Damond Benningfield.

Professor Marshall Rosenbluth

Director Alan Wootton




John Larry Porter Jr., Tokamak, 1984, Porter now at Sandia Labs

Plasma Torus


Kris Klepper, Tokamak

Plasma Torus




Simultaneously with the construction of TEXT, Roger D. Bengtson with his student,Jay F. Benesch, and technician, Keith Carter, constructed a tokamak to investigate the initial stages of tokamak discharges. Others involved with the design and construction were Paul Wildi, George L. Cardwell, Steve A. Eckstrand and Rex F. Gandy. It was anticipated that these studies would provided valuable information for the operation of TEXT. The device was called PRETEXT. The machine had a major radius of 53 cm, limiter radius of 15 cm, and a toroidal field (TF) of 8 kG. Plasma currents of 40 to 60 kA with durations of 40 to 70 ms were typical. Chord average density of the order of 1013 cm-3, the electron temperature Te about 300 eV, and the effective charge Zeff about 3 were also typical. The ohmic-heating (OH) transformer was unique among operating machines at the time, having an iron core and air return. Combinations of mechanical and electronic switches in the OH and TF power supplies provided good reliability at low jitter and low cost. The Department of Energy provided the support for PRETEXT. The machine operation proved to be reliable and provided an interesting range of parameters. A broad range of topics were investigated with PRETEXT and many Ph. D. students used it for their thesis work. PRETEXT was eventually dismantled and shipped to Korea where it was reassembled and operated for several years.

Faculty: Roger D. Bengtson, Mel Oakes
Research Staff: Prashant Valanju, David W. Ross, Swadash M. Mahajan
Pretext Students: Included Jay Benesch, Ted Kochanski, S. C. McCool, Todd Evans, Dan M. Thomas, S.H. Lin, S. J. Levinson, Robert Michie, J. G. Watkins, William David Booth, G. L. Chen, Jose A. Bodel, David Winslow, Y. M. Li, X. Z. Wang

Pretext Tokamak Photo Album

PRETEXT Tokamak and Profesor Roger Bengtson
PRETEXT with Roger Bengtson

PRETEXT, Roger Bengtson and Steve Eckstrand

PRETEXT, Prashant Valanju

Edmund J. Synakowski

2001 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research Recipient

Award Shared with Edward Doyle, Keith H. Burrell and Richard Joseph Groebner

"For experiments that show that sheared ExB flows can suppress turbulence and transport in tokamak plasmas and that such flows can spontaneously arise at the edge and in the core of tokamak plasmas."

Edmund J. Synakowski received his BA degree in physics from the Johns Hopkins University in 1982, graduating with Departmental Honors and receiving the Donald Kerr Memorial Medal for excellence in physics. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1988 (supervisor was Roger Bengtson), having performed spectroscopic studies of plasma impurity transport on the TEXT tokamak. Since 1988, Dr. Synakowski has been on the research staff at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He performed studies comparing experimentally and theoretically determined particle and energy fluxes in the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor, including the first measurements of helium ash production and transport in deuterium-tritium plasmas. His more recent research efforts include a focus on bifurcating plasma systems and studies of the effects of sheared plasma flows on transport and transport barrier dynamics. More recently, he has extended this work to include joint research on the DIII-D tokamak at General Atomics in San Diego, California. Dr. Synakowski now serves as Deputy Program Director of the National Spherical Torus Experiment at PPPL. He presently serves as Chair of the U.S. Transport Task Force, a national organization that promotes research in transport and turbulence. Dr. Synakowski is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and received the 2000 Kaul Foundation Prize for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research and Technology Development.

Ed later was Associate Director of Science in the Department of Energy, directing their Fusion Energy Sciences office. In 2017, he was named Vice-President of Research and Economic Development at the University of Wyoming.

Todd Evans

2018 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research Recipient

Award Shared with Max E. Fenstermacher and Richard Alan Moyer

"For the first experimental demonstration of the stabilization of edge localized modes in high-confinement diverted discharges by application of very small edge-resonant magnetic perturbations, leading to the adoption of suppression coils in the ITER design."

Dr. Evans received a B.S. in physics and engineering physics from Wright State University (1978), an M.S. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas (1979) and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin (1984), where his dissertation and postdoctoral research covered experimental measurements of driven Global Alfven Eigenmodes in the PRETEXT tokamak. His surpervisor was Roger Bengtson. He joined General Atomics in 1985 where he has carried out experimental studies and numerical modeling of small resonant and non-resonant 3D magnetic perturbation effects on magnetically confined toroidal plasmas. He has authored or co-authored over 265 journal articles and book chapters covering research on tokamaks and stellarators in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and South Korea, including: PRETEXT, TEXT, TORE SUPRA, TEXTOR, JIPP T-IIU, ASDEX, ASDEX-Upgrade, NSTX, KSTAR and LHD. He was the 1984 recipient of the R. L. Book Award for distinguished graduate research and was awarded the 2008 International Atomic Energy Agency Nuclear Fusion Prize for his work on the suppression of large edge localized modes with edge resonant magnetic fields in high-confinement DIII-D plasmas. He became an American Physical Society fellow in 2009, based on his contributions to the understanding of complex 3-D magnetic field topologies and their application to the beneficial control of the plasma edge in high temperature fusion plasmas and has been a Sigma Pi Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Mathematical Association of America, The New York Academy of Sciences, and Sigma Xi member.