One of our loyal readers posted a link to a conspiracy buff website pointing out a connection between President Donald Trump and, of all people, Nikola Tesla. Since most internet mentions of Nikola Tesla turn out to be unfounded (or at least unprovable) conspiracy theories, I approached with a bit of skepticism.
I express no opinion as to the conspiracy in question (that the Trump family is involved in a long standing conspiracy to suppress certain Tesla inventions). But I was shocked to learn that there was indeed a connection! President Trump’s uncle, John G. Trump, was a noted professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, and appears to have spent his career working on the same kinds of high-voltage mad scientist devices that Tesla was famous for. At the time of Tesla’s death in 1943, the U.S. Government had to go through all of Tesla’s possessions and papers, in order to see whether there was anything worthwhile to the war effort. Among those they called in to sift through them was none other than Professor Trump.
After his father’s death, John Trump initially went into the real estate business with his brother, Fred Trump, the father of the future president. Fixing up old houses wasn’t to his liking, so he instead pursued a degree in electrical engineering. He he received his bachelor’s degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1929. He followed up with a master’s degree in Physics from Columbia, and in 1933 he received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT). He was on the MIT faculty from 1936 until his retirement in 1973.
Before the war, much of Prof. Trump’s work focused on hospital X-ray machines. Together with Robert J. Van de Graaff (of Van de Graaff generator fame), he developed one of the first million-volt X-ray generators.
As might be expected of the kind of scientist who played around with a million volts, Professor Trump made the pages of Popular Science on three occasions.
For example, the April 1937 issue discusses the X-ray machine shown here. It was designed by Prof. Trump along with Dr. Richard Dresser. It employs a Van de Graaff generator to produce the required million volts.
And in keeping with his apparent status as a mad scientist, Prof. Trump needed a subject on which he could perform his experiments. The lucky subject is described in the magazine’s July 1949 issue. In the photo below, Professor Trump (left, operating the controls) is shown conducting experiments on “Mr. Cruikshank” (shown resting comfortably on the machine), a carefully constructed mannequin.
Unlike human subjects, Mr. Cruikshank could have film inserted directly in his body to examine the effects of powerful X-rays. Prof. Trump had tested him with three million volts, and he was on the way to Massachussets General Hospital for comparison with the effects of a more modest 250,000 volt machine.
Finally, the magazine’s May 1947 issue mentions Prof. Trump’s work with the Van de Graaff generator as a possible method to directly and conveniently harvest nuclear energy.
- John G. Trump at Wikipedia
- Donald Trump’s Nuclear Uncle, New Yorker
- Nikola Tesla’s Surprising Connection to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Van de Graaff Generator for General Laboratory Use by John G. Trump
- A Century of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, 1882-1982, chapter, “The High-Voltage Research Laboratory: John G. Trump”
- Tesla: Master of Lightning