Particles & Waves

By EdwardFenner

Happy 111th Birthday, Robert J. Van de Graaff!

RJVDG as I call him or Van or Tee as he was called to others would have celebrated his 111th birthday today. He was a pioneering American experimental physicist and one of the first to smash atoms with his eponymous particle accelerator. The prototype still exists in the Museum of Science in Boston and is the basis for the familiar machine that makes your hair stand on end in science centres and classrooms around the world. The later units were powerful, high-quality atom smashers useful in medicine, atomic research, cancer therapy, and much more. They are still used today to sterilize food for safety, to harden paint on cars, and to implant ions at precise levels in things such in the manufacture of semiconductor chips used in every technology today.

I have blipped him many times because he is the subject of my research towards my Master's degree in Science and Technology Studies at York University in Toronto; and of a biography and history of Robert and his machine.

Work went slowly this year due but is on track to accelerate in the New Year (pun intended). I will also resume my blog on my research soon: The Smashing Mr. Van de Graaff.

This photo is of my workstation at York University where I work and study. Many interests and blip subjects are represented here. Van de Graaff's machine is shown twice. Tesla, another great electrical scientist. and a pair of physics funnies and a couple of requisite squirrels. A plasma ball can be seen at the top. Very Tesla and is part of my festive decorations on my desk partition (the lights can be seen poking up along the edge). A Galilean thermometer can be just made out at bottom right.

Once again, I am grateful to his sons, blipper John Van de Graaff and his brother William and their families for their support and encouragement.

Happy Birthday, Robert.

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