From the January 14, 1933, issue


The new type of electrostatic high-voltage generator being constructed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Round Hill, Mass., with a Research Corporation grant will be in operation in a few weeks. Dr. R.J. Van de Graaff, its inventor, President Karl T. Compton of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. L.C. Van Atta so informed the American Physical Society.

It will develop a steady, direct current potential of 10,000,000 volts with a continuous power output of about 20,000 watts. One of the first tasks of the generator will be atom smashing.

To provide a portable high-voltage machine, Dr. Van de Graaff and E.H. Bramhall have designed a rugged machine mounted on rubber-tired casters that will develop 1,500,000 volts.

Both generators work on the principle of the old-fashioned static-electricity generator, and belts carry the electric charges to large discharging spheres.

The size of the giant electrostatic generator is apparent from the photograph taken where the apparatus is being assembled in an airship dock. The spherical aluminum electrodes are 15 feet in diameter and weigh one and one-half tons each.

The interior of each sphere will be a compact laboratory, and, though the circular cells are to be subject to high voltages, they will be the safest places for the scientists while the machine is in operation.


The machine age may starve to death in the almost immediate future, victim of today’s profligate use of metals, coal, and oil.

To the scientists and engineers of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Professor Ross Aiken Gortner, University of Minnesota biochemist, observed that precious, irreplaceable stores of natural resources absolutely essential to modern industrial civilization are disappearing into the maws of industry and being dissipated wastefully.

“In the last hundred years, this lusty infant, applied science, has increased its food consumption perhaps a thousandfold,” he said, “and unfortunately for mankind, already the shelves in some of nature’s cupboard show signs of exhaustion of specific food supplies.”


The unit of heredity known as the gene, which controls physical characteristics and passes them on from generation to generation in man and other living things, has been measured.

Its largest size is one-quintillionth of a cubic centimeter. This is just about the volume that 15 protein molecules, one of the largest organic chemical aggregations, could crowd into.

This determination of the size limits of the bearers of heredity, announced to the American Association for the Advancement of Science by Drs. John W. Gowen and E.H. Gay of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, is considered an important fundamental step in the development of biology.

Genes are the units within the chromosomes that determine the development of physical characteristics when, through the union of male and female germ cells, a new individual is created. Chromosomes can be seen readily with the microscope, but the single gene is probably too small to be seen by the eye even when aided by the most powerful optical means. The gene is as important to biology as molecules and atoms are to the physical sciences.

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