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FW: [tecsoc2] A shocking inventor: R. Van de Graaff [Alabama nati ve]

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  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu P.S. There was a pretty good progressive rock band in the 70s called Van de Graaff Generator....aj ... From: CSTS Webmaster
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2002
      fyi..aj wright // ajwright@...

      P.S. There was a pretty good progressive rock band in the 70s called Van de
      Graaff Generator....aj

      -----Original Message-----
      From: CSTS Webmaster [mailto:webmaster@...]
      Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2001 12:34 PM
      To: tecsoc2@...
      Subject: [tecsoc2] A shocking inventor

      This is the daily history message from the Center for the Study of
      Technology and Society. It is available on the Web here:

      (Subscription and unsubscription instructions at the bottom.)

      Dear Readers -

      One century ago, the inventor of a machine used to generate static
      electricity was born.

      Robert Jemison Van de Graaff was born in Alabama on December 20, 1901.
      Van de Graaff (pronounced VAN-duh-graff) graduated from the University
      of Alabama. He then studied physics at some of the world's most
      prestigious schools: the Sorbonne (where he took classes with Marie
      Curie), Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar), Princeton (as a researcher) and
      M.I.T. (as a professor).

      When Van de Graaff studied advanced physics in the 1920s, researchers
      were facing a new challenge: in order to continue investigating atoms
      and radiation, scientists needed more powerful streams of high-speed

      Using simple equipment -- a silk ribbon, some tin cans, a small motor --
      Van de Graaff built a device that could speed up particles and create a
      very high electrostatic charge. During the 1930s, he refined his "Van de
      Graaff generator," and built larger models capable of producing millions
      of volts.

      A Van de Graaff generator usually looks like two metal spheres sitting
      atop two columns. The bigger the spheres, the higher the electrical
      voltage they can store. One giant version -- capable of producing bolts
      of "man-made lightning" -- was big enough to hold a laboratory inside
      each sphere.

      Van de Graaff generators were briefly useful for powering X-ray
      machines, for treating cancer, and for physics research -- but they were
      soon replaced by more powerful devices. Small models of Van de Graaff
      generators, which can fit on tables, are still commonly used in physics
      classes for teaching students about static electricity.

      After WWII, Dr. Van de Graaff started a company that sold electrostatic
      generators. He died in 1967.


      To learn more, use the links below.

      * Click here for a biography of Van de Graaff:

      * Click here to read more about how Van de Graaff generators work:

      * This page has several pictures of a giant Van de Graaff generator:

      * Use these links to read more about the Van de Graaff generator, and
      the instruments that preceded and followed it:

      Thank you, as always, for your support.

      The Center Staff

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