John G. Trump

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John G. Trump
John George Trump

(1907-08-21)August 21, 1907
DiedFebruary 21, 1985(1985-02-21) (aged 77)
EducationPolytechnic Institution of Brooklyn (BS)
Columbia University (MS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (DSc)
Known forVan de Graaff generator
Electron beam sterilization of wastewater[1][2]
  • John
  • Christine
  • Karen
AwardsKing's Medal for Service (1947)
President's Certificate (1948)
Lamme Medal (1960)
National Medal of Science (1983)
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

John George Trump (August 21, 1907 – February 21, 1985) was an American electrical engineer, inventor, and physicist. A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1936 to 1973, he was a recipient of the National Medal of Science and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.[3][4][5] John Trump was noted for developing rotational radiation therapy.[3] Together with Robert J. Van de Graaff, he developed one of the first million-volt X-ray generators. He was the paternal uncle of President Donald Trump.

Early life[edit]

John was the youngest of three children and the second son of German immigrants Frederick Trump and Elizabeth Christ Trump. He was born in New York City on August 21, 1907.

John's brother, Fred, joined their mother in real estate development and management while still in his teens (Elizabeth Trump & Son). Initially, John and his brother tried working together building houses, but ultimately they dissolved their partnership, and John pursued a career in electrical engineering.

Trump received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering (then Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn) in 1929, his master's degree in physics from Columbia University, and his doctorate of electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1933. He was a professor at MIT from 1936 until 1973.

War service[edit]

During World War II, Trump switched from work on hospital X-ray machines to research into similar technologies, especially the development of radar. During 1940, he joined the newly formed National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), as technical aide to Karl Compton, President of MIT and the Chairman of the Radar Division.[6]

During 1942, Trump became Secretary of the Microwave Committee, a sub-committee of the NDRC. The director of the Microwave Committee was Alfred Lee Loomis, the millionaire physicist, who decided to create a laboratory. He selected a site for it, chose a suitably discreet and ambiguous name for it and funded the construction, until the Federal administration was established. The new institution was the MIT Radiation Laboratory, or the "Rad Lab". The British were also researching radar, which they termed Radio Direction Finder (RDF), and had started much earlier. Their Tizard Mission to the US showed how much more sophisticated they were with some of the technologies, particularly the magnetron. The US decided to send a team to Britain to help coordinate the efforts of the two Allies. The unit was known as the "British Branch of the Radiation Laboratory" (BBRL) and operated as a department of Britain's Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) at Malvern, in Worcestershire.

In early 1943, two days after the death of Nikola Tesla, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ordered the Alien Property Custodian to seize Tesla's belongings.[7] Trump was called in to analyze the Tesla items, which were being held in custody.[7] After a three-day investigation, Trump's report concluded that there was nothing which would constitute a hazard in unfriendly hands.[8]

In 1952, following pressure from Tesla's nephew, Sava Kosanović, Tesla's entire estate was shipped to Belgrade in 60 trunks marked N.T. In 1957, Kosanović's secretary Charlotte Muzar transported Tesla's ashes from the United States to Belgrade. The ashes are displayed in a gold-plated sphere on a marble pedestal in the Nikola Tesla Museum.

From February 1944 to the end of the war in Europe, Trump was the Director of the BBRL.[9] During this time, Trump also served in the Advisory Specialist Group on Radar, advising USAAF General Carl Spaatz on navigational radar, precision-bombing radar, and also defenses against the German radars found in their night-fighters and in their flak units. The systems included: Gee, Oboe, LORAN, H2X, MEW & SCR-584. Trump worked with all the most important British radar experts, including Sir Robert Watson-Watt, A.P. Rowe and Bernard Lovell. At the end of the war, Trump also had interviews with Germany's main radar technicians.[10][11] Trump received recognition for his war related work partnership from both the United States and the United Kingdom.[12][13][3]


John G. Trump is a member of the Trump family. He married Elora Sauerbrun (1913–1983), and they had three children: the late John Gordon Trump (1938–2012) of Watertown, Massachusetts; Christine Philp of New London, New Hampshire; and Karen Ingraham of Los Alamos, New Mexico; and six grandchildren.[3][14] Trump's nephew, Donald Trump, has been President of the United States since 2017.

During 1946 Trump, Robert J. Van de Graaff, and Denis M. Robinson initiated the High Voltage Engineering Corporation (HVEC) to produce Van de Graaff generators.[3]

He returned to MIT to teach and direct research for three decades after the war. He directed the MIT High Voltage Research Laboratory from 1946 to 1980. Some of his research at MIT concentrated on treating wastewater. He researched using an electron beam from a high voltage accelerator as the deactivating agent in the treatment of municipal wastewater sludge. The High Voltage Research Laboratory developed a prototype system that was tested at one of Boston's wastewater treatment plants and it was able to provide bacterial and viral disinfection via continuous on-line treatment.[15] Trump died in Boston on February 21, 1985.[16]

The National Academy of Engineering described Trump as "a pioneer in the scientific, engineering and medical applications of high voltage machinery".[4] James Melcher, Trump's lab director, is quoted as saying: "John, over a period of three decades, would be approached by people of all sorts because he could make megavolt beams of ions and electrons – death rays... What did he do with it? Cancer research, sterilizing sludge out in Deer Island [a waste disposal facility], all sorts of wondrous things. He didn't touch the weapons stuff."[17]

Awards and honors[edit]

Trump received a number of awards including:


  1. ^ "Sewage Problem Solved". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 21 May 1977. Retrieved 19 Aug 2015.
  2. ^ US 2123728  "High Energy Electron Treatment of Water" of Dr. John G. Trump, requested by High Voltage Engineering Corp
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "JOHN TRUMP DIES - ENGINEER WAS 78". 1985-02-26. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  4. ^ a b John George Trump | Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 3 | The National Academies Press. 1989. doi:10.17226/1384. ISBN 978-0-309-03939-0. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  5. ^ "The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details | NSF - National Science Foundation". Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  6. ^ "J. G. Trump - Engineering and Technology History Wiki". 2016-01-29. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  7. ^ a b "Nikola Tesla Timeline from Tesla Universe". Tesla Universe. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  8. ^ "The Missing Papers". PBS. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  9. ^ "Private Papers of Dr J G Trump (Documents.4461)". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  10. ^ "Private Papers of Dr J G Trump". Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  11. ^ Thomas, William (2015-04-10). Rational Action: The Sciences of Policy in Britain and America, 1940-1960. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262028509.
  12. ^ "JOHN GEORGE TRUMP 1907-1985". NAE Website. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  13. ^ "School of Engineering - Electrical Engineering" (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology Bulletin. 85 (1): 123. October 1949.
  14. ^ "John Gordon Trump". The Boston Globe. September 27, 2012. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  15. ^ "Collection: John G. Trump papers | MIT ArchivesSpace". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  16. ^ "Eric Dubois: Academic Genealogy". Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  17. ^ Science for the People, January/February 1988, p25, Retrieved 2016-11-4.