Sep 072012
Sept. 6, 2012 — by Philip Ball —

The following obituary appeared in Nature on September 6, 2012. Click the link below to read the entire obituary on Nature’s website.

Although a final reckoning should not let genuine achievements be overshadowed by errors, the blot that cold fusion left on Martin Fleischmann’s reputation is hard to expunge.

Fleischmann, who died on 3 August at the age of 85 after illness related to Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and diabetes, was the first to observe enhanced Raman emission from molecules at surfaces, now the basis of a spectroscopy technique. And he developed ultramicroelectrodes, used as sensitive electrochemical probes.

Nonetheless, he is best known for his claim in 1989 to have initiated nuclear fusion in bench-top apparatus. The ‘cold fusion’ debacle provoked bitter disputes that reverberate today. Along with polywater and homeopathy, cold fusion is now regarded as one of the most notorious cases of what chemist Irving Langmuir called pathological science: “the science of things that aren’t so”.

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