Robert J. Van de Graaff papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The bulk of the collection falls between 1943 and 1946, although there are some earlier notes from the MIT Department of Physics (box 2, folders 143-151). Of great significance are the sections of the collection which contain correspondence, drawings, and reports on the MIT generator at Round Hill (box 2, folders 167-168), the early development of generators of higher voltage than 5 MV (boxes 1-2, folders 131-140), and the projects directed by Van de Graaff for the US Office of Scientific Research and Development (box 2, folders 169-174) and the US Navy (box 2, folder 177) during World War II.
- 1928 - 1948
Intellectual Property Rights
After his graduate studies at the University of Alabama, Van de Graaff worked as a research assistant for the Alabama Power Company. Between 1924 and 1929 he studied in Europe, first at the Sorbonne (1924-1925), and later at Oxford University. During that period he became interested in designing a source of energetic particle beams for the study of atomic nuclei. His first working model of the high-voltage electrostatic generator was built in 1929, when Van de Graaff was a National Research Fellow at Princeton University's Palmer Physics Laboratory. The invention was reported at a meeting of the American Physical Society in 1931, and patented in 1935. In collaboration with John G. Trump and William W. Buechner, both of MIT, Van de Graaff continued working on his generator in an effort to achieve higher voltages, more homogeneous particle beams, and more compact designs. In 1946, together with Trump and Denis M. Robinson, a professor of engineering from England, Van de Graaff founded the High Voltage Engineering Corporation, where he served as chief physicist (later chief scientist) until his death in 1967. The company began its manufacturing operations in 1947, becoming a leading supplier of the particle accelerator systems used in cancer therapy, radiography, and studies of nuclear structure.
Van de Graaff published many scientific papers and received numerous patents, including those of the high-voltage electrostatic generator and the insulating-core transformer. His work on electrostatic generators was widely recognized within the scientific community. Van de Graaff received several honorary degrees and awards, including the 1947 Duddel Memorial Medal of the Physical Society of Great Britain and the 1966 Tom W. Bonner prize of the American Physical Society. In 1935 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
2.5 Cubic Feet (in 2 record cartons, 1 manuscript box, 1 oversized drawing)
Language of Materials
Arrangement of the Collection
Source of Acquisition
- Beggs, George E. (George Erle), 1883-1939
- British Central Scientific Office
- Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974
- Cockcroft, John, Sir, 1897-1967
- Compton, K. T. (Karl Taylor), 1887-1954
- Failla, Gioacchino, 1891-1961
- Government consultants Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- High Voltage Engineering Corporation (Burlington, Mass.)
- High Voltage Radiographic Project
- Killian, James Rhyne, 1904-1988
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- Faculty Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Laboratory for Nuclear Science
- Particle accelerators -- Research. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Slater, John C. (John Clarke), 1900-1976
- Stratton, Julius Adams
- Trump, John G.
- United States. Office of Scientific Research and Development
- Van de Graaff generator. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Van de Graaff, Robert Jemison, 1901-1967
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Science. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Guide to the Papers of Robert Jemison Van de Graaff, 1928-1948
- Page Edwards and Don Clayton
- Language of description
- Script of description
- This finding aid has been encoded by the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics, as part of a collaborative project supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency. Collaboration members in 1999 consisted of: American Institute of Physics, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Rice University, University of Alaska, University of Illinois, and University of Texas.
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