The Global Energy Prize laureate 2003

Ian Smith and the dawn of pulse power engineering


Pulsed power is called the energy of the future, although research in this area has been conducted since the middle of the previous century. The fantastic power, concentrated in the electric “shot”, generates a great number of capabilities that are being currently studied and researched to the large extent. Not coincidentally, the first laureates of the Global Energy Prize in 2003 became the Russian physician Gennady Mesyats and the British- American scientist Ian Douglas Smith, who were awarded “for fundamental research and development of high-power pulse energy”. Behind these scanty lines, there is a bright life of a venturous researcher, who, according to his own words, spent days and nights in laboratories, rather than at conferences and in libraries, and in those laboratories he tested, studied, reflected, hesitated, made mistakes and finally achieved the desired outcome. The group dynamics was collaboration complemented by competition, both in work and in many games, some of which we invented. We sailed in our new plastic generator tank on the pond near our lab; at the regular tea breaks we played darts. Occasionally work and play mixed: “Once Charlie and I decided for fun to build an x‑ray tube with a high-voltage insulator made from ice – the pond was frozen deep that winter. For the electrodes, Charlie purloined a spoon and fork from the canteen. I could not get a good enough vacuum inside the ice, but inside plastic the knife and fork worked well, and we took an instant x‑ray of AWRE’s Director’s watch to show him to how versatile our new technology was”.

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