Particles & Waves

By EdwardFenner

The voice of Robert J. Van de Graaff

Robert J. Van de Graaff (1901-1967) was a pioneering experimental nuclear physicist (aka Atom Smasher) whom I blipped on his birthday. His son John Van de Graaff is a popular blipper and birder (and the subject of my first blip and is the one who got me hooked on blipping). His brother Bill is a punster and a doctor (not necessarily in that order). As part of my MA in Science and Technology Studies, I've been visiting John and Bill and MIT and the MOS in Boston doing research. This summer, at John's place, we uncovered lots of papers and photos, a bunch of ancient Confederate money, and an old 7-inch audio reel of 1/4-inch Scotch audio tape long forgotten and possibly the only audio left in existence of Robert.

Today, I was able to get and old reel-to-reel working (with some help, it has been 25 years since I touched one of those old but great machines), dub it, slow it down, and save it - a portion of which you see here (from January 7, 1964). I've e-mailed a copy to John and Bill so they can tell me if their dad sounds right (that I got the dubbed version at the right speed). It's only a 29-second clip but since I don't have any other audio of Robert to compare it with, the boys will have to wander down memory lane for me so I can process the rest and get them each a copy on media they can play for themselves, their kids, grandchildren...

A couple of blipsters have provided me with some good information and tips on Robert. Thank you and keep them coming!

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