A Brief History and Introduction to the International Conference Series
Part one - From ICCF1 to ICCF3
by Michael McKubre
Organization of this document. This history is being written in sections. The first “episode” covers
the foundational years, ICCF1 through ICCF3. In perusing the rich photographic library that documents
all of the eighteen ICCF conferences to date, I decided to choose content based upon those images.
For the first three conferences the photographic record is slight but informational content is high.
This historical document is intended to be faithful and inclusive. Part of our intent is to feature the
cold fusion warriors that are no longer with us. It is important to document how we came to today,
to ICCF19 — what forces were put in play to make the seemingly impossible transition from one
conference to nineteen. In doing this the role of the International Advisory Committee (IAC) and
the roles of the chairmen throughout the years are critical.
In their introduction to the ICCF14 (2008, Washington, DC) Proceedings volumes, Dave Nagel, teacher
and researcher at The George Washington University, and Mike Melich, research professor with the Naval
Postgraduate School in Monterey, California (Co-Chairs), provided a short summary and table of the
locations and attendance for the first fourteen conferences in the ICCF series. That we got that far
was remarkable; that we are now at nineteen is all the more so. Certainly many predicted that we would
not proceed beyond one or two and each passing conference further secures our place in history and
continues to annoy, defy and diminish the case of the decreasing band of skeptics. We are confining
our discussion to how this accomplishment was achieved and the significance of this achievement for
the broader cold fusion community.
||Chair(s) / Links
||National Cold Fusion Institute
||Salt Lake City
||Universita degli studi di Milano
Giuliano Preparata, Emelio del Giudice, Tulio Bressani
||The Physical Society of Japan
||Electric Power Research Institute, ONR, ENEA
Mike McKubre, Tom Passell
Martin Fleischmann, Stanley Pons
||MITI New Hydrogen Energy Program
Makoto Okamoto, Naoto Asami, Kazuaki Matsui
Fred Jaeger, George Miley
||ENEA*, CNR*, INFN*, SIF*
||Ministry of Science and Technology
Peter Hagelstein, Scott Chubb
Jean-Paul Biberian, Vittorio Violante
||ISCMNS*****, Japan CF-Research Society, Thermal and Electric Energy Technology Foundation (Japan)
Akito Takahashi, Kenichiro Ohta, Yasuhiro Iwamura
||ISCMNS***, Russian Physical Society, Nuclear Society of Russia
Yuri Bazhutov, Igor Goryachev
David Nagel, Michael Melich
||ENEA, Energetics Technologies, SCI, SIF, CNR*
Vittorio Violante, Shaul Lesin
||ISCMNS***, Indian Physics Association, IGCAR****, NEF**
Mahadeva Srinivasan, P.K. Iyengar
||ISCMNS, Korea Nuclear Society, KAIST*****, NEF**
Sunwon Park Frank Gordon
||University of Missouri, ENEA, National Instruments, NEF**
Rob Duncan, Yeong Kim
Tony La Gatta
*ENEA (Italian Agency for New Technologies, Energy, and the Environment);
CNR (National Research Council);
INFN (National Institute for Nuclear Physics);
SIF (the Italian Physical Society);
and SCI (the Italian Chemical Society).
|***NEF New Energy Foundation
||*** ISCMNS International Society for Condensed Matter Nuclear Science
||**** IGCAR Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research
The first conference was created with the name First Annual Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF1), by Fritz Will
and his staff at the National Cold Fusion Institute (NCFI) in Salt Lake City, Utah. (For the purpose of this history
and continuity, I will refer to all conferences in this series as ICCF.) Fritz Will (seen below) is a famous
electrochemist who had been employed by General Electric at their corporate central research laboratory in Schenectady,
New York from 1960 until 1990 when he took on leadership of the NCFI. The electrochemistry community in 1990 regarded
Fritz as thorough and reliable, and about that time he was appointed to be President of the Electrochemical Society,
the principal electrochemical society in the U.S., and perhaps the world. It was an interesting and significant choice
to see him selected as the director of NCFI, for him to leave GE, and take a senior role in this emerging and turbulent
field. Perhaps part of the reason can be found in this remarkable quote published in 1991 by 21st Century Science and
Technology (1) : “One has to pose the question, what are the motivations of groups of scientists out there that are lashing
out against scientists that have decided to work in this area? It makes it very unfairly difficult for those that are
courageously making a commitment to this field to work in this field.”
Fritz Will, ICCF1 Chairman (photo courtesy: Gene Mallove).
Obviously NCFI was intending an annual event focused on cold fusion, but not necessarily international. The first
conference was located very close to the NCFI in Salt Lake City from March 26-31, 1990. The naming of the Institute
and the conference tells us a lot. Clearly NCFI intended to assert leadership in this area, at least in the U.S., and
hopefully continue to host the annual conferences. This was not to be. The NCFI was a solid producer of some very high
quality and important results, but had self-identified as the leader in a field that influential forces intended to
suppress. Unfortunately they also fell victim to some poor pre-planning in respect to the roles that Fleischmann and
Pons were expected to play. To the chagrin of many Utah residents, and to the detriment of the field, the NCFI closed
its doors in June 1991.
The time from March 23, 1989 until March 26, 1990 (the first conference) was the most transitional, challenging, and
exciting time of my research career. The group at SRI International, Menlo Park, California, about six people at that
time, literally worked days, nights, and weekends to make progress in what was becoming an increasingly interesting,
but also externally hostile, environment. It is worth recalling that the immediate response from the physics community
was not antagonistic. A great number of physicists, in an attempt to be amongst “the first”, went into their laboratories
to replicate, or pounded the keys of their computers to explain Fleischmann and Pons’ observations. The beginnings of
public polarization can most likely be traced to the May 1989 Baltimore meeting of the American Physical Society (APS).
It was there that the very strange George Bush type of attitude “you’re with us or you’re against us” began. It was in
this milieu that the first major conference was held.
I attended ICCF1 with a half a dozen members of my group and an almost equal number of our sponsors from the Electric
Power Research Institute (EPRI). The mood was more like a rock concert than a scientific conference, with champions and
villains on display. Some of my old heroes were prominent, John Bockris, Texas A&M; University, and of course Martin
Fleischmann, and some new heroes: theorists Julian Schwinger, Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 1965, professor in the
Physics Department at UCLA; Giuliano Preparata, Department of Physics, University of Milan, Italy; Peter Hagelstein,
principal investigator in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) and an Associate Professor at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT); and the irrepressible Scott Chubb, research physicist at Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)
in Washington, DC. There I met for the first time with Gene Mallove, who worked for technology engineering firms such
as Hughes Research Laboratories, the Analytic Science Corporation, and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, and later became publisher
of Infinite Energy magazine (seen below with Martin). I also met Andy Riley, who at the time was project manager of the
engineering group at the University of Utah’s National Cold Fusion Institute. He later became one of the early members of
the SRI research team and the first of our fallen warriors (seen below with a young Dave Nagel).
Gene Mallove and Martin Fleischmann (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
Andy Riley and Dave Nagel (photo courtesy: Gene Mallove).
On the experimental side I was very impressed with Ed Storms, a nuclear scientist then with the Los Alamos National
Laboratory, New Mexico, and Carol Talcott, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and with their thorough, no-nonsense solidity.
Their evidence of tritium seemed compelling along with the near-simultaneous results of Bockris and Bhabha Atomic Research
Centre, (BARC, Trombay, India), but the issue of “theoretical impossibility” had already emerged. I remember sitting on a
panel and seeing the puzzled expression on the faces of a number of prominent critics in response to a question arguing
the primacy of experiment. Until that point it had never occurred to me that an experimental result could be denied on
the basis of theory. The only theories or laws that I held in that esteemed regard were the equivalence of mass and energy,
Einstein’s rule, and the First Law of thermodynamics. Since our calorimeter relied on the First Law, and commensurate nuclear
product results had not been presented at that time, neither was seemingly violated. The need for explanation was forestalled
by Julian Schwinger’s often repeated words that “the circumstances of Cold Fusion are not those of Hot Fusion.”
Recent picture of Carol Talcott-Storms and Ed Storms.
John Huizenga, American physicist who helped build the world’s first atomic bomb (seen below debating with Peter Hagelstein),
and Douglas Morrison, physicist at CERN, European Organization for Nuclear Research, Switzerland, were very active in the
discussions. One evening Tom Passell, EPRI, and I sat down with Douglas and went through all his arguments. One by one we
listened to Douglas’ criticisms and refuted them to the point that he agreed with our arguments, or seemed to. But by the
next morning Douglas had reset himself. This process of dramatic internal conflict repeated at every ICCF until his last at
ICCF8 in Lerici, Italy. I will say more about Douglas in the discussion of those following conferences but it should be
stated here that his contributions were welcomed. He at least invested the energy and interest to attend and even present.
Professors John Huizenga and Peter Hagelstein (photo courtesy: Gene Mallove).
The first conference was really the product of Fritz Will and the NCFI. The International Advisory Committee (IAC)
had not been fully formed or structured although an ad hoc group of us came together at ICCF1 over drinks to discuss the
potential future of such conferences. Leading the group was Giuliano Preparata. Others included Joe Santucci, my EPRI
program manager at the time (seen below with Giuliano), Martin and Stan, John Bockris (seen below with Carol White,
reporter for 21st Century Science and Technology magazine) and possibly more. Out of that discussion emerged ICCF2. Also
not called an ICCF at that time, it was largely crafted by the energy and enthusiasm of Giuliano, and for the first time
the IAC emerged as the organization charged with ensuring conference continuity. It was not obvious to any of us then how
hard this would be, and how important.
Giuliano Preparata and Joe Santucci, EPRI (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
George Andermann, Carol White and John Bockris (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
A new leader and champion had emerged in the person of Giuliano Preparata. He was always a man much larger than life
and remained so until his untimely death in 2000. More or less as an act of personal will, Giuliano ensured the
continuity of the field and the conference series. ICCF2 was held in a magnificent location, as can be seen from
the poster below, on the banks of Lake Como in northern Italy, now making the national conference, international.
The building in which the conference was located was magnificent: the Centro di Cultura Scientifica Alessandro Volta
(Centre for Scientific Culture Alessandro Volta, aka Centro Volta). The situation was highly appropriate. In the home of
Alessandro Volta, native of Como and the world’s first electrochemist, the atmosphere was truly charged.
ICCF2 Conference Poster.
Unfortunately we have few photographs of ICCF2 but there are many spectacular and enduring memories. Situated in the
building shown on the poster, a 16th century villa on the banks of Lago de Como, the conference spanned a week of perfect
weather, June 29-July 4, 1991. All presentations were made in the same large room with high vaulted ceilings decorated
with art from the Italian renaissance. There was no order in which the papers were presented. Theory, experimental science,
materials science, electrochemistry, particle physics, nuclear measurement were mixed all together, one after another from
very early in the morning (by Italian standards) until quite late in the afternoon. It was intense. I probably learned more
in that one week than at any other conference or in any other week of my life. It was exhilarating and exhausting.
ICCF2 was characterized for me by constructive chaos dominated by information overload tempered by the sheer beauty of the
location, environment and gastronomy. But gone was the sense that we were “all in this together” working coherently towards
a common goal. There were secrets, and minders to keep the secrets. Martin and Stan were accompanied closely by representatives
of their sponsors to make sure that they didn’t give information away. To a lesser degree I was also accompanied by minders
representing my sponsors. At one point, in order to have a private discussion with Stan, mostly about old times and not science,
the two of us rented a small boat and rowed out onto the lake so we could be alone. This was the first ominous signal that
things had changed.
Very likely the highlight of ICCF2 was the first public presentation by Melvin Miles, former university chemistry professor
and Navy researcher, of the correlation between the appearance of excess heat and the production of helium-4. Mel is seen below
at the conference with his daughter Mindy. The significance of this result was perhaps not well understood at the time, and
certainly not by me. The vessels that Mel used for calorimetry were not helium leak tight and there was much discussion about
the likelihood of helium in-leakage causing or affecting the result. It took some thinking to recognize the elegance of the
approach that Mel had used, employing the out-gassing deuterium and oxygen to purge and scavenge helium from his system.
In retrospect however, and once confirmed, Mel’s results were stunning. Finally we had a product that made sense (except to
those with a hot fusion mindset). This is a fact that even John Huizenga recognized in his 1992 book, Cold Fusion: The Scientific
Fiasco of the Century. He was counting on non-confirmation — Huizenga was wrong.
Mel Miles and his daughter Mindy (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
I also became aware at ICCF2 of the infectious good nature and the formidable intellectuality of the Chubb and Chubb team,
Scott and Talbot, both physicists who spent many years at the Naval Research Laboratory, shown below but no longer with us.
I expect they are still working and providing answers to anybody listening.
Talbot Chubb and his nephew Scott Chubb (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
Several other characters quietly showed up at ICCF2: Keiji Kunimatsu, University of Yamanashi, Fuel Cell Nanomaterials Center,
Japan (who we will speak more of in the next conference); Mike Melich (Co-Chair of ICCF14); Tom Claytor, Los Alamos National
Laboratory, New Mexico (very important early tritium results and still active) can be seen in the following picture and below
that is a photo of Frank Gordon, Head Navigation and Applied Sciences Department Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center,
San Diego, California (Co-Chair of ICCF17) with Stan Szpak, SPAWAR (author of more publications in the cold fusion field than probably any other).
Keiji Kunimatsu, Mike Melich and Tom Claytor (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
Frank Gordon and Stan Szpak (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
As mentioned earlier, ICCF2 occurred as the result of the efforts of Giuliano Preparata with the help of Fritz Will, along with
powerful support from local organizers and others of course, but there was still no formal external oversight committee.
This was born and tasked at ICCF2 as a steering advisory committee, the International Advisory Committee (IAC).
The idea of a rotation of chairman (but not continental rotation) was created along with a change of title to the
International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF) under the aegis of the IAC. We first met in a rustic restaurant perched high
above the lake for a meal comprising seven courses of Polenta in various forms. It was not evident then where or when the next
conference would be, but it was clear for the first time that there would be another conference — and another — and that there
was a group of people — us — who would take responsibility for making that happen. This is another of Giuliano’s legacies.
The third conference took place in Nagoya, Japan under the chairmanship of Hideo Ikegami, National Institute for Fusion Science,
Nagoya, Japan. The conference took place from October 21-25, 1992 in the Nagoya Congress Center, a very modern facility.
Two names stand out from that conference. The first is Professor Ikegami, who was largely responsible for the organization
and high scientific standards. To this date ICCF3 remains the best attended conference (346) with the largest number of papers (102).
The second major character was Minoru Toyoda, whose family founded and largely owned the Toyota Motor Company, who provided some
of his support openly but a great deal more behind the scenes. By this time Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons were working for
Mr. Toyoda at the Institut Minoru de Recherche Avancée, IMRA, in France. Almost single-handedly Minoru had rescued the baby of
Cold Fusion from the dire place that the U.S. and Europe has consigned it and gave it the opportunity to grow to what it is today.
Professor Hideo Ikegami, Chair ICCF3 (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
Martin Fleischmann opening ICCF3 (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
ICCF3 was the conference where the ideas began to crystalize and we rolled up sleeves and began to work. I gave the first
technical paper (Excess Power Observations in Electrochemical Studies of the D/Pd System: The Influence of Loading), followed
by Ed Storms (Measurement of Excess Heat from a Pons-Fleischmann Type Electrolytic Cell), then Keiji Kunimatsu, IMRA-Japan
(Deuterium Loading Ratio and Excess Heat Generation during Electrolysis of Heavy Water by a Palladium Cathode in a Closed
Cell Using a Partially Immersed Fuel Cell Anode) and then Martin Fleischmann (Calorimetry of the PD•D20 System: From Simplicity
via Complications to Simplicity). The consistency between these four groups working independently was impressive even to those
of us actively involved. In particular I presented a curve showing excess heat versus deuterium loading with the threshold of
D/Pd ~0.875 below which excess heat was not seen. I was completely stunned to see the same curve arrived at completely
independently by Keiji Kunimatsu two papers later. This was followed by another eight papers with a similar theme.
At this point it was clear that the period of awe had ended and the period of science had begun. It is worth noting that
Dr. Kunimatsu was the head at another IMRA facility, this one in Hokkaido, which was also sponsored by Minoru Toyoda.
Stan Pons and Mike McKubre (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
Keiji Kunimatsu (third from right) with Akito Takahashi fourth from right
and Francesco Celani fifth from right (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
We have photographic record of a number of other individual attendees and presenters at ICCF3, including Reiko Notoya,
Catalyst Research Center, Hokkaido, Japan, with Mahadeva (Chino) Srinivasan, then Associate Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre,
Mumbai, India, and Tom Passell, former EPRI executive, U.S., Akito Takahashi, Osaka University, Japan, with Jed Rothwell,
cold fusion researcher and owner of LENR-CANR.org, a library of papers on cold fusion, U.S., seen below.
Chino has been continuously active on the IAC and was Chair of ICCF16.
Akito was chair of ICCF12 and Tom was Chair of ICCF4.
Reiko Notoya and Mahadeva (Chino) Srinivasan (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
Tom Passell, Akito Takahashi and Jed Rothwell (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).
The science at ICCF3 was extremely solid, possibly not equaled until ICCF10 in Cambridge, Massachusetts under the
chairmanship of my good friend Peter Hagelstein. In addition to the science two things stand out for me from ICCF3:
the most magnificent buffet banquet that I have ever attended, hosted by another of our fallen warriors, Minoru Toyoda,
and the IAC meeting where the basic operating principles of the ICCF conference series and rotation were put in place.
We have a picture of Debra Rolison (Naval Research Laboratory, NRL, U.S.) calming Giuliano Preparata (with me studying
the menu) at the IAC meeting. It was Debra who proposed the continental rotation, the idea that the conference should
rotate from the Americas to Europe to Asia in a cycle. In part this was needed to manage the friendly competitions
that were developing to host the conference. What this meant was that the conference would come back to the Americas
for “4”, but it did put me and “my fellow Americans” in the hot seat.
The tale of ICCF4 and subsequent conferences will be related in future “episodes” of this history.
John Bockris (head of table), Mike McKubre (profile), Debra Rolison and Giuliano Preparata (photo courtesy: Dave Nagel).