Posted on: 19th September 2016

EUROfusion and the fusion community are saddened to learn about the demise of tokamak and stellarator pioneer Alan Gibson. Alan was one of the most influential members of the team that designed, constructed, operated and exploited EUROfusion’s flagship device the Joint European Torus (JET). In fact, Alan was the session leader for JET’s first Preliminary Tritium Experiment (PTE); he went on to serve as deputy to Paul-Henri Rebut during the design phase and later became the Head of the Torus and Measurements Department and the Deputy Director under Martin Keilhacker.

In a memoir Fun in Fusion Research by fusion researcher John Sheffield, Alan has been described as “one of the most practically bright and inventive scientists at Culham.” Alan had developed the first cost analysis code to include physics goals component costs, engineering constraints and site constraints to optimise the Divertor Injection Tokamak Experiment (DITE) that was under construction. It was Alan’s vision that led to the high quality data produced by JET in a format available to the entire team. Alan was a driving force in each of JET’s deuterium-tritium experiments in the 1990s.

The JET project team in 1977: Paul-Henri Rebut (center) and colleagues Alan Gibson (UK), Giulio Celentano (Italy), Ettore Salpietro (Italy), John Last (UK), Barry Green (Australia), Peter Noll (Germany) et Jean-Pierre Poffé (Belgium), Ingevar Selin (Sweden), Dieter Eckhart (Germany).

The JET project team in 1977: Paul-Henri Rebut (center) and colleagues Alan Gibson (UK), Giulio Celentano (Italy), Ettore Salpietro (Italy), John Last (UK), Barry Green (Australia), Peter Noll (Germany) et Jean-Pierre Poffé (Belgium), Ingevar Selin (Sweden), Dieter Eckhart (Germany).

One among his many important publications is a paper titled “Resistively Heated Plasmas in JET: Characteristics and Implications” published in the June 1987 issue of Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society A. The paper describes and evaluates the behaviour of ohmically heated plasmas in JET.

“It is not too much to say that Alan was one of the highest calibre, most important and influential people in the history of the JET Project,” says Lorne Horton, Head of the JET Exploitation Unit. “He will be missed by those of us who had the pleasure to know and work with him.” After his retirement, Alan maintained an active interest in the progress of fusion research and of JET, appearing at JET seminars with his usual ability to understand and question the heart of the matter being discussed.

Alan is survived by his son, Ian, and his family. A celebration for the life of Alan will be held at 10.30 am on Wednesday 21st September 2016 at the West Berkshire Crematorium. Please find more details on the service at the notice from Alan’s family.