John George Trump (August 21, 1907 – February 21, 1985) was an American electrical engineer, inventor, and physicist. He was a recipient of U.S. President Ronald Reagan's National Medal of Science, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. John Trump was noted for developing rotational radiation therapy. Together with Robert J. Van de Graaff, he developed one of the first million-volt X-ray generators. He was the paternal uncle of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Trump 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.
During World War II, Trump switched from work on hospital X-ray machines to research into similar technologies with a more direct application to warfare, 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.
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 1943, as the technical aide in Division 14 of the NDRC, Trump reviewed and analyzed the papers of Nikola Tesla when the inventor died in a New York City hotel. The research was completed on behalf of the Alien property Custodian office in Washington DC. From February 1944 to the end of the war in Europe, Trump was the Director of the BBRL.
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. Trump received recognition for his war-work from both the United States and the United Kingdom.
John G. Trump 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. His nephew Donald John Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States in 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.
He returned to MIT to teach and direct research for three decades after the war. Trump died in Boston on February 21, 1985.
The National Academy of Engineering described Trump as "a pioneer in the scientific, engineering and medical applications of high voltage machinery". 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."
Trump received a number of awards including: