Dr. John Crocker Fisher III was born December 19, 1919 in Ithaca, New York, the oldest of two sons born to John Crocker Fisher, Jr. and Ruth Emery (Campbell) Fisher. His childhood years were spent in the Forest Home section of Ithaca and in Syracuse, New York. He graduated with the class of 1937 from Ithaca High School the year his family moved to the Grandview area of Columbus, Ohio for his father’s work as a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Bureau. It was there Dr. Fisher met his future wife, Jo Ann Johnson, a Grandview neighbor.
It was also from Columbus, in 1937, that his family made their first family vacation summer visit to Drummond Island, Michigan. Not long after that the Fishers purchased a cottage on Potagannissing Bay that would remain central to the family for four generations.
In 1939, at the age of 19, Dr. Fisher toured the major landmarks of Europe as a U.S. delegate to the World Conference of Christian Youth held in Amsterdam. He returned home by ship with his fellow U.S. delegates one week before Hitler invaded Poland.
Dr. Fisher graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State University in 1941 with an B.A. degree with high distinction in Mathematics, and then worked for a year as a lab technician for Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus before pursuing his graduate degree. On October 24, 1943 he and his wife were married at First Community Church in Columbus, Ohio; they spent their honeymoon at the Fisher cottage on Drummond Island.
In 1947 Dr. Fisher received a Sc.D in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, where he also worked as an assistant and an instructor of mechanics courses (1942-1947). After graduation he accepted a position in the Metallurgy Department of the General Electric Company’s Research Lab in Schenectady, New York. His titles there over the next 17 years included Research Associate (where he worked in physical metallurgy, physical chemistry, solid state and theoretical physics, and economics of research and development), Manager of the Physical Metallurgy Section, and Manager of Liaison and Transition.
In 1949 he was awarded the Alfred Noble Prize by the Engineering Founder Societies and the Western Society of Engineers for “outstanding work as a young scientist.”
While at the GE Reserach Lab he worked with many of the distinguished scientists (and one novelist) of the 20th century, including (in no particular order) Herb Holloman, future Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, Richard Oriani, Richard Sills, Thomas O. Paine (future administrator of NASA), the future Sir Charles Frank, Gert Ehrlich, Francis Bundy, Milan Fiske, Charles Bean, Walter Harrison, Roland Schmitt, Guy Suits, Louis Coffin, Joseph Becker, Jack D. Lubahn, and brothers Bernie and Kurt Vonnegut. Living first in Alplaus and then at 1181 Avon Road in Schenectady’s GE Plot of historic homes, Dr. and Mrs. Fisher raised their three children and were active in numerous social and professional groups including the Alplaus Volunteer Fire Company, the Bifocals Club, and the Schenectady Museum.
During the early days of television, he broadcast some general science programs on the local Schenectady station. Around the same period he participated in the GE Science Forum radio program.
In 1955 he took a sabbatical from GE to audit physics courses at the University of California at Berkeley taught by, among others, Dr. Edward Teller.
Dr. Fisher organized the 1956 International Conference on Dislocations and Mechanical Properties held in Lake Placid, New York. In 1959 he presented the Horace W. Gillett Memorial Lecture (“The Role of Dislocations in Plastic Deformation”) for the 62nd meeting of the American Society for Testing Materials, and in 1962 presented the Edward DeMille Campbell Memorial Lecture (“Synthetic Microstructures”) for the American Society for Metals.
While working at the GE Research Lab, Dr. Fisher was a Board member and trustee of the Schenectady Museum Association, and was an early supporter and President of the proposed (but never built) American Museum of Electricity. He led the new building fundraising campaign for All Souls’ Unitarian Church, and worked with the Schenectady Bureau of Municipal Research. Also during this period he served as Adjunct Professor of Metallurgy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and as a Visiting Lecturer at MIT. His contributions to applied science led to several patents.
In January 1965 the Fishers moved to Santa Barbara, California when Dr. Fisher transferred to General Electric Company’s TEMPO Center for Advanced Studies as Manager of Information Sciences. In 1968 Dr. Fisher left GE to spend a year serving as the 15th Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force stationed at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
From 1969 to 1972 he rejoined GE as Consulting Scientist for the Re-entry and Environmental Systems Division in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and from 1972 to 1974 he worked as Manager of Energy Systems Planning for GE’s Power Generation Business Group in New York City, and later in Fairfield, Connecticut. From that base he traveled to oil fields and energy installations around the world to research his 1974 book, Energy Crises in Perspective.
From 1975 to 1977 Dr. Fisher was “on loan” from GE to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, California, and from 1977 to 1980 he worked once again at the GE Research Lab in Schenectady, New York. In 1980 he retired after 31 years and two months with GE to do private consulting work, including a stint as Chief Scientist of InterMagnetics General Corporation (a manufacturer of magnets for MRI imaging and diagnostics), and President of MagSep, a business seeking practical uses of superconductivity and magnetics.
During the 1980’s Dr. Fisher returned to his lifelong passion for conducting his own theoretical work in elementary particle physics, spending research time both at FermiLab outside Chicago and using FermiLab data. Following the 1989 announcement of the discovery of “cold fusion” by Fleischmann and Pons, after some initial skepticism, Dr. Fisher became convinced of the existence of a previously unknown nuclear source of energy. To account for this source he developed his polyneutron theory, which continued to evolve over his last 25 years.
Dr. Fisher was a former member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Society for Testing Metals, a Life member of the American Society for Metals, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Institute of Physics. His honorary memberships included Sigma Pi Sigma, Pi Mu Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi. In addition to his book, he authored over 100 technical papers, essays, and lectures.
From the days of his childhood, accompanying his family on primitive roadtrips in the 1930’s from Ithaca and Syracuse to California and other landmarks of the West (including an emergency pit-stop in Carpinteria, where he would coincidentally end up spending his retirement years), Dr. Fisher possessed a love of travel. His list of places visited included the U.S. Virgin Islands and Aruba, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Fiji, England, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Andorra, Monaco, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Many of the European countries he visited both before and after World War II. In 1996, at the age of 77, he took a photographic safari to Africa, fulfilling a lifelong dream. His last solo flying trips included his lecture at the March 2014 CF/LANR Colloquium at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his final visit to Drummond Island, Michigan in July 2015, and his visit to family in Georgia at Christmas 2016.
When elected by his peers to the National Academy of Engineering in 1981, he was cited for “Conceptual leadership in solid-state rate theory, synthetic microstructure, technological forecasting, and inspired teaching ability.”
At his farewell party from GE in January 1980 he told his colleagues: “That is my life—to learn, and also to teach.... I have been fortunate—we all have—I have been a professional revolutionary all my life. The scientific revolution is in full swing. People like us get paid to do what we really want to do—learn about nature and apply what we learn to useful tasks. The only limits are one’s own ability.”
As he often told his family: “I am a happy man.”
1919 - 2018
Ashes buried Tuesday afternoon, 17 July 2018
Jo Ann Johnson Fisher
Robert Campbell Fisher