Chemist Martin Fleischmann, Center of Cold Fusion Controversy, Dies at 85
British chemist Martin Fleischmann, who stunned the world by announcing that he had achieved nuclear fusion in a glass bottle, has died after a long illness. He was 85.
His son Nicholas said he died Friday at his home in Tisbury, England. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years.
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Fleischmann was one of the world’s leading electrochemists when he and partner Stanley Pons proclaimed in 1989 that they had sparked fusion, the nuclear process that heats the sun, in an experiment at the University of Utah.
The reaction they reported occurred at room temperature and appeared to give off little radiation, an enormous contrast to the still-ongoing quest to harness fusion by conventional means, in billion-dollar reactors at temperatures of millions of degrees.
The announcement in Salt Lake City raised the hope of a shortcut to fusion as a clean, renewable and cheap energy source. But when other scientists rushed to replicate the achievement, most failed, and “cold fusion” was quickly labeled junk science. Physicists accused Fleischmann of incompetence and fraud.
He and Pons continued to work on —and defend— their findings, but they were disheartened by the way their work was ignored by scientists after the debacle of 1989.