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 MA (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 (see banner image above of the generator in action 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 of up to £350 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 permtited 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 email 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 $2000, 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!
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.
Other Research Interests
- Electronic learning technologies for adults.
- Electronic publishing history (from desktop publishing to print-on-demand).
- Publishing via mobile/remote devices (smart phones, laptops, news displays, etc.).
- Electrical inventors of the 19th and early 20th centuries (especially Alexander Graham Bell, Reginald Fessenden, Nikola Tesla, & Robert Jemison Van de Graaff) and their impact on science and technology.
- Pirates and privateers of the 17th and 18th centuries operating along the eastern shores of North America.
- Retro technologies redeveloped for the 21st century (such as: pneumatic tube transports (PTTs), steam heating, HVDC)
- Steampunk culture, design, and literature.