Nick Hitchon obituary, Death – In the world of science and television, the paths of achievement can be as diverse as the subjects they explore. Nick Hitchon, a man who left an indelible mark both as a dedicated nuclear fusion researcher and an unexpected television star, has passed away at the age of 65 after a prolonged illness. Though his scientific aspirations of delivering affordable and clean energy to the world may remain unfulfilled, his legacy is cemented not only in his contributions to the field of nuclear fusion but also in his participation in the groundbreaking documentary series “Up.”
Born in Skipton, Nick Hitchon was the eldest son of Iona and Guy Hitchon, who farmed in the picturesque Littondale hamlet of Hawkswick in North Yorkshire. From this humble upbringing, Nick’s trajectory took him on a journey that spanned continents and disciplines. It was his profound passion for science, coupled with an innate curiosity about the universe, that propelled him forward. This thirst for knowledge led him to Ermysted’s Grammar School in Skipton, where he not only excelled in science but also demonstrated his prowess on the rugby field, captaining the rugby first XV and even representing Yorkshire Schools.
His academic journey led him to Merton College, Oxford, where he embarked on a path to study physics. It was at Oxford that his brilliance began to shine, as he achieved his DPhil at a remarkably young age of 23. However, Nick’s quest for knowledge knew no bounds, and he made a pivotal decision in 1982 that would set the course for the next phase of his life. Alongside his first wife, Jacqui Bush, Nick relocated to the United States to continue his groundbreaking work on nuclear fusion at the University of Wisconsin. This marked the beginning of a four-decade-long association with the university’s Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering.
Nick Hitchon’s impact in the field of nuclear fusion cannot be overstated. His commitment to providing the world with a sustainable and affordable energy source was unwavering. He authored more than 100 articles and authored three books, solidifying his status as a prominent figure in his specialized field. His work held the promise of transforming the world’s energy landscape, offering a cleaner and more efficient alternative to traditional energy sources. Yet, as with many scientific endeavors, the path to fulfillment was laden with challenges and complexities that often extended beyond the realm of research.
However, it wasn’t only Nick Hitchon’s scientific pursuits that garnered attention. In a twist of fate, he found himself becoming an unexpected star of the documentary series “Up.” The series, which began in 1964 as a one-off exploration of the lives and viewpoints of seven-year-old children, evolved into a groundbreaking longitudinal study that revisited the same individuals every seven years. Nick’s involvement began at the tender age of six when a researcher visited his primary school seeking a child willing to speak on camera. Little did he know that this seemingly innocuous moment would lead to his continued participation in a project that would span decades.
Despite some reservations about his portrayal in the early episodes, Nick’s commitment to the documentary was unwavering. He offered a unique perspective on the passage of time, growth, and the evolution of one’s dreams and aspirations. His interviews provided a candid and unfiltered glimpse into his life, creating a connection between him and the viewers that transcended the screen.
In addition to his scientific achievements and his unexpected television stardom, Nick Hitchon’s personal life was marked by resilience and determination. Diagnosed with cancer five years prior to his passing, he faced his illness with courage and an unyielding spirit. He continued to live life to the fullest, retiring from his academic position only in the spring of 2022.
Nick Hitchon’s legacy lives on through his second wife, Cryss Brunner, whom he married in 2001, his son Adam from his first marriage, and his brothers Chris and the author of this piece. His contributions to the world of science and his unwitting role as a documentary luminary remind us that a life well-lived can take on multifaceted dimensions, enriching not only our understanding of the universe but also the human experience itself.
As we reflect on Nick Hitchon’s journey, we are reminded that life’s narratives are complex and intertwined, often defying easy categorization. His story resonates with the enduring pursuit of knowledge, the unexpected turns of fate, and the resilience that defines the human spirit. Whether striving to unlock the secrets of nuclear fusion or sharing candid insights with the world through a documentary lens, Nick Hitchon leaves behind a legacy that inspires us to embrace both the expected and the unforeseen chapters of our own lives.