Fusion Veteran Tom Simonen Passes, Age 84

July 28, 2023

Veteran U.S. fusion scientist and program leader Thomas C. Simonen passed away on July 17, 2023 at the age of 84.

Tom received his BS from Michigan Tech in 1960 with majors in mathematics and electrical engineering. He went on to receive a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. While at Stanford Tom met his wife Candace McDonnell of Mill Valley, CA. They were married in 1964 and had two daughters, Kathrina Lois and Brenda Alice.

After appointments at Hughes Aircraft, Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Munich, Germany, and Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory, he joined the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as a physicist and became one of the leading scientists in the magnetic mirror fusion experiments there. When the magnetic mirror effort at LLNL ended, he and other LLNL fusion scientists began to aide scientists working on tokamaks at General Atomics (GA) in San Diego.

In 1988, Simonen joined the GA staff and became the DIII-D Program Director, a position he held for the next 12 years. Soon after joining GA he published an important paper in Physics Review Letters on the non-inductive sustainment of a high beta-poloidal plasma using neutral beam current drive. During his time as DIII-D Director, the program established many of the characteristics it is known for today, such as an advanced divertor program, cryopumping for density control, use of 3D fields and the advanced tokamak concept.

He continued to co-author scientific papers with his fusion colleagues. Many of his scientific papers can be accessed at: https://www.researchgate.net/scientific-contributions/T-C-Simonen-5336669

Tom's family may be contacted via his wife Candace at csimonen@ucsd.edu