Robert J Van de Graaff

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Robert Jemison Van de Graaff, (December 20, 1901 -- January 16, 1967) was an American physicist and instrument maker, and professor of physics at Princeton University.


Van de Graaff was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was the designer of the Van de Graaff generator, a device which produces high voltages. In 1929, Van de Graaff developed his first generator (producing 80,000 volts) at Princeton University. He was a National Research Fellow, and from 1931 to 1934 a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He became an associate professor in 1934 (staying there until 1960).

During World War II, Van de Graaff was director of the High Voltage Radiographic Project. After World War II, he co-founded the High Voltage Engineering Corporation (HVEC). During the 1950s, he invented the insulating core transformer (producing high-voltage direct current). He also developed tandem generator technology. The American Physical Society awarded him the T. Bonner prize (1966) for the development of electrostatic accelerators.

Van de Graaff died in Boston, Massachusetts.


  • Masters degree (mechanical engineer) -- Alabama
  • Doctorate of Philosophy (Physics) -- Oxford
  • Marie Curie lectures -- La Sorbonne University


  • "A 1,500,000 Volt Electrostatic Generator". Physical Review, Volume 38, 1931.
  • "The Electrostatic Production of High Voltage for Nuclear Investigations". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1932.
  • "Electrostatic Generators for the Acceleration of Charged Particles". Progress in Physics, Volume 11, 1948.
  • "Irradiation of Biological Materials by High-Energy Roentgen Rays and Cathode Rays". Journal of Applied Physics, Volume 19, 1948.
  • "Tandem Electrostatic Accelerators". Nuclear Instruments and Methods, Volume 8, 1960.
  • "Electrostatic Acceleration of Very Heavy Ions, with Resulting Possibilities for Nuclear Research". Bulletin, American Physical Society, August 29, 1966.


  • US1991236 -- "Electrostatic Generator"
  • US2922905 -- "Apparatus For Reducing Electron Loading In Positive-Ion Accelerators"
  • US3187208 -- "High Voltage Electromagnetic Apparatus Having An Insulating Magnetic Core"
  • US3323069 -- "High Voltage Electromagnetic Charged-Particle Accelerator Apparatus Having An Insulating Magnetic Core"
  • US3239702 -- "Multi-Disk Electromagnetic Power Machinery"
  • US3308323 -- "Inclined field High Voltage Vacuum Tubes"

External links and references

  • "Van de Graaff Robert C2". Robert J. Van de Graaff explains his electrostatic generator to Karl T. Compton, MIT President, shortly after his demonstration at the APS meeting in 1931. []

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