As a professional communicator or as a university student I have conducted research in one way or another for over 30 years. Recently, I have focused my interests on pioneering American experimental physicist and entrepreneur Robert J. Van de Graaff.

 

RJVDG Round Hill Van de Graaff Machines Van de Graaff generator

In the late spring of 2010, serendipity connected me with the late Robert J. Van de Graaff - a pioneering American nuclear physicist and inventor - and whose early particle accelerator is shown above. Dr. Kenton Kroker of York University was on sabbatical in Paris, France and had a neighbour who, it turned out, was Robert's son John. They got to talking, enquiries were made back at the Science and Technology Studies Graduate Program back at YorkU, and I was recommended by Dr. Bernard Lightman and Dr. Edward Jones-Imhotep. I had just completed my BA (Hons.) in professional writing with Science and Society as my minor. 

I was (and am) known as a person keenly interested in pioneering high-energy electrical inventors and science such as Nikola Tesla. Kenton then, knowing I was accepted to the Graduate Program in STS here, if I would be interested in researching Robert's papers in John's possession. I, of course, said yes and that I would be honoured to do so. John Van de Graaff and I began exchanging e-mails, phone calls, and soon began to start looking into what the world knew of Robert J. Van de Graaff and his eponymous machine. In September 2010, I began my MA studies focusing on early nuclear physicists and their accelerators - and on RJVDG in particular.

July 2010: I began preliminary investigations into the life, science, and legacy of American experimental physicist Robert J. Van de Graaff. If anyone has any suggestions, links, or other comments, do let me know. Read the Wikipedia profile of Robert J. Van de Graaff.

August 2010: I spent time with Robert's son John and had a visit with Robert's original generator at the Museum of Science in Boston (the generator was state-of-the-art when newly built at Round Hill, South Dartmouth, Massachusetts in 1933). I also spent some time at the MIT Archives and the MIT Museum. All are preliminary investigations into my research on Robert and his machine for my Master's research and for a potential book.

March 11, 2011: The Scientific Instrument Society, based in the UK, approved a grant to help reimburse expenses regarding my road trip investigations into Robert J. Van de Graaff's devices. This is very helpful to part-time graduate students like me who do not qualify for (nor are we usually permitted to apply for) grants and scholarships in the same fashion as full-time graduate students.Thank you SIS for your support!

July 2011: I visited John Van de Graaff again and have a total of 8,000+ photographs of Robert's documents and files. John loaned to me an old reel-to-reel audio recording of Robert for transfer to current media. He also loaned to me a deteriorating 16mm BBC news film reel short to attempt to restore it should the BBC not have a good or clean copy. I also spent some time at the MIT Archives, again. In August, I will visit with Bill, Robert's younger son, in Chicago.

August 2011: I visited visit with Bill, Robert's younger son, in his home near Chicago. We had a wonderful productive time.

November 07, 2011: I successfully dubbed an old 7-inch reel of 1/4-inch audio tape of Robert J. Van de Graaff. It's been 25 years since I used a reel-to-reel machine. With the help of Rob van der Bliek, music librarian and YorkU's Sound and Moving Image Library, I was able to get a good, clean copy on modern media. The old reel was in remarkably good shape since it likely hasn't been played since circa 1967.

December 19, 2011: I received an e-mail today telling me that I have been awarded a grant-in-aid from the Friends of the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics, in College Park, Maryland, USA. Worth up to US $2,000, this grant is meant to help reimburse expenses regarding my investigation into Robert J. Van de Graaff and his devices while visiting the Center's Niels Bohr Library & Archives and Emilio Segrè Visual Archives. Thank you AIP for your support!

February 29, 2012: I set up and launched my academic research blog: The Smashing Mr. Van de Graaff today.

November 2012: A bit of a lost year. Sometimes life gets in the way.

February 2013: All is well again and I'm back in research mode.

July 8-15, 2013: My research trip to the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland, USA was a success. Great staff and I learned a lot about Van de Graaff, his colleagues, and High Voltage Engineering Corporation. Paralleling that were successful trips into Washington, DC, to do some research at the Smithsonian Institution's Archives and at the National Museum of American History Library.

February 05, 2014: My proposal to present at the 14th annual STGlobal Consortium Science and Technology in Society Conference in Washington, DC. has been accepted. Topic: "Smashing Atoms and Smashing Sales - The Prospects and Perils of Manufacturing Particle Accelerators for Science and Profit."

February 19, 2014: My proposal to present at the Science and Technology Studies Northeast Graduate Student Conference at Cornell University has been accepted. Topic: "Smashing Atoms and Expectations - Entrepreneurial Science and the Dawn of High-Tech Venture Capital at Robert J. Van de Graaff's High-Voltage Engineering Corporation."

March 09, 2014: I presented a paper at Cornell University's Northeast Graduate Student Conference in Science and Technology Studies. Topic: "Smashing Atoms and Expectations — Entrepreneurial Science and the Dawn of High-Tech Venture Capital at Robert J. Van de Graaff's High Voltage Engineering Corporation." Read the NESTS program PDF at this link.

March 18, 2014: My proposal to present a paper at the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science (CSHPS) 2014 Congress at Brock University has been accepted. Topic: "Smashing Atoms and Making Money: Robert J. Van de Graaff's High Voltage Engineering Corporation — Methods and challenges of marketing peaceful uses for particle accelerators during the Cold War."

April 05, 2014: I presented a paper at the 14th annual STGlobal Consortium Science and Technology in Society Conference at The National Academies in Washington, DC. Topic: "Smashing Atoms and Smashing Sales — The Prospects and Perils of Manufacturing Particle Accelerators for Science and Profit."

April 07, 2014: My proposal to present a paper at Localities: Science and Technology in Places, Spaces, and Times at York University's Graduate Student Conference has been accepted. Topic: "No Clean Room Required — Developing and Manufacturing Robert J. Van de Graaff's Electrostatic Particle Accelerators for Science and Profit in the American Northeast."

May 02, 2014: I presented a paper at Localities: Science and Technology in Places, Spaces, and Times at York University's 4th annual Graduate Student Conference. Topic: "No Clean Room Required. Developing and Manufacturing Robert J. Van de Graaff's Electrostatic Particle Accelerators for Science and Profit in the American Northeast."

May 26, 2014: I presented a paper at the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science (CSHPS) 2014 Congress at Brock University. Topic: "Smashing Atoms and Making Money: Robert J. Van de Graaff's High Voltage Engineering Corporation — Methods and challenges of marketing peaceful uses for particle accelerators during the Cold War."

August 2014: My Major Research Paper (MRP) "Smashing Atoms and Expectations - Entrepreneurial Science and the Dawn of Publicly-Funded High-Tech Venture Capital at Robert J. Van de Graaff's High Voltage Engineering Corporation" was accepted by the Department of Science and Technology Studies and the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Read it on Academia.edu.

November 2014: Preliminary discussions with Yale University's A.W. Wright Nuclear Structure Laboratory about me writing a paper on the decommissioning of their Emperor Tandem Van de Graaff accelerator.

March 2015: I visited Yale University's A.W. Wright Nuclear Structure Laboratory March 24-26 to research a paper on the decommissioning of their Emperor Tandem Van de Graaff accelerator. I gave a seminar on March 26 to Yale's Department of Physics about my Van de Graaff research. See Yale Physics Department Events and A.W. Wright Laboratory Events.

 

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