Photo of John G. Trump

John G. Trump

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For his introduction of new machines and methods for the widespread beneficial application of ionizing radiation to medicine, industry and atomic physics.

After receiving his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1933, John G. Trump continued working at MIT under Robert Van de Graaff, who he built high-voltage electrostatic generators with. Over his career, Trump would become a pioneer in high voltage engineering and his work would have tremendous benefits in multiple fields, including medical care.

Trump and Van de Graaff built one of the first 1 million-volt X-ray generator. In 1937, it was installed at a local hospital in Boston, where it was used to help treat cancer patients. During World War II, Trump went to work at the MIT Radiation Lab, which used microwave radar to help with the war effort. In 1944, Trump headed the lab’s British Branch. After the liberation of Paris, he rode into the city with General Dwight D. Eisenhower to begin setting up a Paris branch for the lab.

After the war, Trump continued to work at MIT and formed the High Voltage Engineering Company with Van de Graaff. Their company built Van de Graaff generators used in a wide range of fields, including medical care and physics research. At MIT, Trump’s most notable contribution came from his efforts to use radiation to treat deep cancerous tumors without harming healthy tissue. Trump also worked on using high voltage radiation to preserve food and treat sewage.

By Jacob Kerr