Robert Van de Graaff’s greatest achievement was
The Van de Graaff Generator which he finished on
Nov. 28, 1993 and produced 7,000,000 volts.
“ Man Hurls Bolt of 7,000,000 Volts” was the New
York Times reporter said when the machine was
Van de Graaff was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
He and his brothers loved playing football.
Van de Graaf came from a line of lawyers,
however Van de Graaff “was destined to be
The Van de Graaff family was known as
community moves and shakers.
Van de Graaff married Catherine Boyden in 1936
and they had two sons named John and William.
In 1913, Robert Van de Graaff played a football
game against Tennessee and nearly lost his ear.
He literally grabbed his ear and tried to yank it
from his head. However, his teammates stopped
him and he was bandaged. He wanted to keep
playing so he was willing to tear off his ear, which
shows an insane amount of dedication that carried
over to Van De Graaff’s study and love of science.
Van de Graaff studied at the University of Alabama
where he got his Bachelors of Science in 1922,
and his Masters of Science in 1923.
He obtained his P.H.D. at Queen’s College.
He also went to Princeton as a National Research
Fellow and also studied at Harvard Medical
Van de Graaff created the Van de Graaf generator
He also used X rays for treating cancerous tumors
with precisely penetrating radiation and this was
first used clinically in 1937.
He also was the director of the High Voltage
Radiographic Project during World War II. He
directed the adaptation of the electrostatic
generator to precision radiographic examination of
the U.S. Navy ordnance.
He also invented the insulating core transformer,
also a project involving voltage.
Van de Graaff received a Rockefeller Foundation
grant during World War II for his help and he also
got the privilege of naming an invention after him
He also created the High Voltage Engineering
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