Sept. 14, 2014 – By Steven B. Krivit –
Chase Peterson, a former University of Utah president, died on Sunday. He was 84.
He died of complications from pneumonia, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Peterson, who served as president from from 1983 to 1991, played a key role in the March 23, 1989, public announcement of room-temperature “fusion” by University of Utah chemist Stanley Pons and University of Southampton visiting professor Martin Fleischmann.
Peterson, along with a team of intellectual property attorneys, coordinated patent applications, a press release, and a press conference to ensure that the university would retain rights to Fleischmann and Pons’ research.
The University of Utah team had been worried that physicist Steven Earl Jones, at nearby Brigham Young University, was trying to pirate the Fleischmann-Pons discovery and steal not only their thunder but also their claim of priority.
Peterson and his staff pre-empted Jones with a press release and news conference that triggered one of the most chaotic and controversial science stories the world has ever seen.
In March 1990, in his eagerness to promote “cold fusion” research in Utah, Peterson arranged for an anonymous donation to the University of Utah’s newly established National Cold Fusion Institute, in the hopes of attracting outside investment. When faculty members later learned that the donation did not, in fact, come from external funding but from the university itself, they protested.
On June 4, 1990, the Deseret News, wrote that the “academic senate called into question Peterson’s ability to lead the university.”
“In an overwhelming vote,” the News wrote, “the senate passed a resolution asking the state Board of Regents and the University Institutional Council whether it was in the best interest of the university for Peterson to continue at the helm.”
A week later, Petersen announced that he would retire during the following academic year.
Fleischmann died in 2012. Pons, who has declined all media requests since 2004, is believed to be living in southern France.
The idea of “cold fusion” — positively charged atomic nuclei joining together at room temperature — has long been discredited. However, new insight in the last decade reveals that there was, and still is, a valid underlying nuclear process to Pons and Fleischmann’s discovery, though it has nothing to do with fusion.*
* Krivit, Steven B., “ENERGY: Review of Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions,” Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering, Reedijk, Jan (Ed.), Elsevier, Waltham, Mass, ISBN: 978-0-12-409547-2
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