In Memory of John Fisher, 1919-2018
Dr. John C. Fisher, cold fusion theorist and originator of the polyneutron theory, passed away on May 2 at the age of 98.
Fisher received an Sc.D. in mechanical engineering (1947) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He worked for 32 years at General Electric research labs in Schenectady, New York and Santa Barbara, California, as a researcher, scientist, manager and advisor. He also served as an Adjunct Professor of Metallurgy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and as a visiting lecturer at MIT.
In the late 1950s at GE Schenectady, Fisher mentored Ivar Giaever, one of the recipients (with Brian Josephson and Leo Esaki) of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics for tunneling phenomena in semiconductors and superconductors. In a 1981 RPI Schenectady Invention & Technology documentary, GE’s Roland Schmitt talks about how he teamed Giaever with Fisher: “At that time, John Fisher had wanted to undertake a new line of research in thin films. John Fisher had the idea that he might be able to reproduce many of the phenomenon on which semiconductors were based using thin films and metal insulators. Now, John was perhaps the most outstanding teacher and inspiring individual we had in our group, and it seemed to me that assigning Giaever, a young person trying to learn physics, to Fisher was the best possible combination. So that is the reason that I put Giaever to work with Fisher in this new line of research.” Coverage related to Fisher’s contributions begins at 03:50 of the documentary.
Giaever recounts his road to the Nobel Prize in his 1974 lecture, in which he acknowledges Fisher’s contributions.
In 1968, Fisher left GE for one year to serve as Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force. GE commissioned Fisher to write the 1974 book Energy Crises in Perspective, for which he traveled around the world examining energy systems in different countries. He authored over 100 technical papers and essays.
After his retirement in 1980, Fisher worked as a consultant and continued theoretical work in elementary particle physics. In 1989, he became intrigued with cold fusion.
Fisher’s polyneutron theory may offer explanations for cold fusion experimental findings, including excess heat, nuclear transmutation and particle showers. Fisher and Richard Oriani conducted a long-term collaboration that tried to meld theory and experiment. In his review of ICCF10 in 2003 (Infinite Energy, Issue 52), our late founder and editor Eugene Mallove wrote that Fisher and Oriani presented a “paradigm-busting set of papers” that he declared one of “three absolutely fundamental scientific high points at the conference.” He concluded that in the Fisher-Oriani experiment “we are far removed from the notion of lattice-based nuclear reactions...Why not then consider even more radical theoretical medicine than the metal lattice dynamics that have been the staple of so many ‘mainstream’ LENR theories?”
Marianne Macy conducted an oral history interview with Fisher, parts of which were used in her piece “The Fisher/Oriani Collaboration” in Issue 94 of Infinite Energy. Of theory, Fisher said, “A theory that can only explain things that have been done is not useful. You’ve got to have a theory that explains and forecasts things that haven’t been done. That theory doesn’t have to be right, but it could be useful if it encourages people to do things they would not have otherwise done.”
For more details about the polyneutron theory, see two reviews of the 2014 Lattice-Assisted Nuclear Reactions Colloquium, one by Thomas Dolan (p. 7) and one by Christy Frazier (p. 8).
John Fisher’s family prepared a very detailed, interesting account of his personal and professional life.