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John G. Trump papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0223

Scope and Contents

The collection contains the papers of John G. Trump, 1907-1985, professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It includes material about Trump's study of the use of energized electrons to disinfect municipal sludge; patents issued to Trump and Robert J. Van de Graaff; and information about Trump's involvement with professional associations and other professional activities.

One can also find in this collection administrative and research records of the MIT High Voltage Research Laboratory, which Trump directed from 1946 to 1980.

During World War II, Trump was on leave from MIT serving in leadership positions at the U.S. government radar research laboratory, the Radiation Laboratory, part of Division 14 (Radar) of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC). Documents relating to his work on the Steering Committee of the lab and as director of the British Branch of the Radiation Laboratory (BBRL) are government records and are held in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Northeast region.

In the 1970s John Trump also studied the application of the use of a high voltage accelerator in treating wastewater. An intense electron beam from a high voltage accelerator was used successfully as the deactivating agent in the treatment of municipal wastewater sludge. In pilot plant studies by the High Voltage Research Laboratory, a prototype system erected at one of Boston's wastewater treatment plants demonstrated continuous on-line treatment providing bacterial and viral disinfection.


  • 1933 - 1981


Access note

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Biographical Note

For a full biography see "John George Trump," by Louis Smullin. In Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, volume 3 (1989), pages 332-337.

John G. Trump, 1907-1985, BS in electrical engineering, 1929, Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn; MA 1931, Columbia University; ScD in electrical engineering, 1933, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was a research associate at MIT in (1933-1936), assistant professor (1936-1941), associate professor (1941-1952) and was appointed professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1952. Working with Robert J. Van de Graaff, he designed one of the first million-volt x-ray generators used in cancer therapy.

He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950, and to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977.

During World War II, John Trump served as a member of the Steering Committee overseeing the U.S. government research laboratory, the Radiation Laboratory, which was located on the MIT campus, Division 14 (radar) of the National Defense Research Committee. This Laboratory was responsible for research and production of radar systems. Trump was also the Head of Division 12, Field Service, in the Radiation Laboratory, as well as the director of the BBRL (British Branch of the Radiation Laboratory) when it was established in 1944 in Malvern, England.

After the war he co-founded, with Robert Van de Graaff and Denis Robinson, the High Voltage Engineering Corporation to manufacture generators for use in nuclear research, industrial processing, radiography, and medicine. Trump directed the High Voltage Research Laboratory on the MIT campus from 1946 to 1980.

Trump’s research interests included the generation of high voltage power, vacuum insulation, and the physics of high energy electron and x-radiations and their application to physical, biological, and medical problems.


15 Cubic Feet (15 record cartons, one oversize folder)

Language of Materials



Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Source of Acquisiton

Materials were given to the Department of Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) in 1987 by John Trump's son, John Gordon Trump.

Related Materials

Vignettes of Early Radiation Workers (1978), John G. Trump and Lauriston S. Taylor discuss therapeutic radiology.

Vacuum electrostatic engineering, by John G. Trump. Thesis (Sc.D), Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Electrical Engineering, 1933.

High Voltage Energy Corporation records, MC-0153, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections.

Robert Van de Graaff papers, MC-0045, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections.

Denis M. Robinson papers, MC-0481, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections.

Five Years at the Radiation Laboratory, presented to Members of the Radiation Laboratory by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 1946.

John G. Trump A War Diary, 1944-5, (1973). (D810.S2.T78)


  • "John George Trump," by Louis Smullin. In Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, volume 3 (1989), pages 332-337.

Processing Information note

Notes (Biography, Scope and Content, Related Materials) have been created on a preliminary level. The collection was listed and reviewed at a folder level for MIT records policy restrictions, and for obvious PII titles, and items noted for restriction at that level were moved to box 16 (folders removed have orignal box locations noted on the folders). The collection list (which came in with the collection) was reviewed against box contents. Although this collection is not processed, some obvious material we do not retain (journal vouchers, monthly financial transaction sheets) was removed.

Processing Information note

Screening Box 10 Box 14

Preliminary Inventory to the Papers of John G. Trump
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 August 20: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US