Martin Fleischmann Memorium

by Nobel Laureate Dr. Brian Josephson

Distinguished electrochemist whose claims for cold fusion have yet to find widespread acceptance.

Accounts of the cold fusion claims of the Czech-born electrochemist Martin Fleischmann, who has died aged 85, and his American-French former student Stanley Pons often assert that their results could not be replicated. This implies that their original experiments, carried out at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, in the 1980s were flawed. Cold fusion has since come to be commonly regarded as a delusion, but the true situation is more complicated.

The Fleischmann-Pons experiments were motivated by the idea that hydrogen fusion, the source of the sun’s heat, which goes very slowly at ordinary temperatures, might go significantly faster if the nuclei involved were brought closer together, as when hydrogen is absorbed at high density in a material such as palladium. The project was more successful than anticipated: returning to the laboratory after one weekend, when the apparatus had been turned off, the pair found that so much heat had been produced that a large hole had been melted into the bench and concrete floor. As a precaution they reduced the scale of the experiment and announced their findings at a press conference in 1989.

Read Brian’s complete tribute

My own tribute to Martin comes from how he lives on in my memory.

In the very early days of Cold Fusion at the first cold fusion conference there was already a lot of controversy running. In one session Giulliano Preparata an Italian nuclear theorist and wonderful ALL ITALIAN GUY was drawn to his feet, no not just his feet he actually stood on his chair to object loudly and passionately to the outrageous comments of some skeptic who was giving a paper.

Giulliano was pulled down from his chair by his colleagues and he left the room, I had been standing in the door and left with him. As I was talking to Giulliano he was still very upset about the comments the jerk speaking had made and more about some of his colleagues telling him that he was too passionate. I had my hand on Giulliano’s shoulder and I was saying to him that he should never tame his passion for science.

At that moment Martin came out of the room and in an instant had wrapped his arms around both Giulliano and I. He said loudly and from his heart, you are right Russ we must never stop being passionate men. From that moment on Martin and I were both friends and colleagues.

I will remember Martin always for his passion for science and for those he found to be kindred souls. Giulliano died some years before Martin and if I were to guess they are having a grand time together now engaging in passionate discussion about the mysteries of physics in their new dimension.