FYI December 20, 2017


1917 – Cheka, the first Soviet secret police force, is founded.
Cheka (Russian: ЧК, IPA: [tɕɪˈka]) was the initialism for the first of a succession of Soviet secret police organizations. Established on December 5 (Old Style), 1917 by the Sovnarkom[1], it came under the leadership of Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat-turned-communist.[2][3]By late 1918, hundreds of Cheka committees had sprung up in various cities at the oblast, guberniya, raion, uyezd, and volost levels.

In 1921 the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic (a branch of the Cheka) numbered at least 200,000.[4] These troops policed labor camps; ran the Gulag system; conducted requisitions of food; subjected political opponents to secret arrest, detention, torture and summary execution; and put down rebellions and riots by workers[citation needed] or peasants, and mutinies in the desertion-plagued Red Army.[5][need quotation to verify]

After 1922 Cheka groups underwent the first of a series of reorganizations; however the theme of a government dominated by “the organs” persisted indefinitely afterward, and Soviet citizens continued to refer to members of the various organs as Chekists.[6]

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1901 – Robert J. Van de Graaff, American physicist and academic, invented the Van de Graaff generator (d. 1967)
Robert Jemison Van de Graaff (December 20, 1901 – January 16, 1967) was an American engineer, physicist, and noted for his design and construction of high-voltage Van de Graaff generators. He taught at Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Biography

Robert Jemison Van de Graaff was born in the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His parents were of Dutch descent.[1] His three older brothers Adrian, Hargrove, and William were all All-Southern college football players for the Alabama Crimson Tide. William was known as “Bully” and was Alabama’s first All-American. In Tuscaloosa, Robert received his B.S. and master’s degrees from The University of Alabama where he was a member of The Castle Club (later became Mu Chapter[2] of Theta Tau). After a year working for the Alabama Power Company, Van de Graaff studied at the Sorbonne. During 1926, he earned a second B.S. at Oxford University by a Rhodes Scholarship, completing his PhD during 1928.[3]

Van de Graaff was the inventor of the Van de Graaff generator, a device which produces high voltages. During 1929, he developed his first such generator, producing 80,000 volts.[4] By 1933, he had constructed a larger generator generating 7 million volts.[4]

Van de Graaff was a National Research Fellow, and from 1931 to 1934 a research associate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He became an associate professor during 1934 (staying there until 1960). He was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal during 1936.

During World War II, Van de Graaff was director of the High Voltage Radiographic Project. After World War II, he co-initiated the High Voltage Engineering Corporation (HVEC) with John G. Trump. During the 1950s he invented the insulating-core transformer, producing high-voltage direct current. He also developed tandem generator technology.

The American Physical Society awarded him the T. Bonner prize (1965) for the development of electrostatic accelerators.

Van de Graaff died on January 16, 1967 in Boston, Massachusetts.

A crater on the far side of the moon is named after him.

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Van de Graaff generator
A Van de Graaff generator is an electrostatic generator which uses a moving belt to accumulate electric charge on a hollow metal globe on the top of an insulated column, creating very high electric potentials. It produces very high voltage direct current (DC) electricity at low current levels. It was invented by American physicist Robert J. Van de Graaff during 1929.[1] The potential difference achieved by modern Van de Graaff generators can be as much as 5 megavolts. A tabletop version can produce on the order of 100,000 volts and can store enough energy to produce a visible spark. Small Van de Graaff machines are produced for entertainment, and for physics education to teach electrostatics; larger ones are displayed in some science museums.

The Van de Graaff generator was developed as a particle accelerator for physics research, its high potential is used to accelerate subatomic particles to great speeds in an evacuated tube. It was the most powerful type of accelerator of the 1930s until the cyclotron was developed. Van de Graaff generators are still used as accelerators to generate energetic particle and x-ray beams for nuclear research and nuclear medicine.

Particle beam Van de Graaff accelerators are often used in a “Tandem” configuration: first, negatively charged ions are injected at one end towards the high potential terminal where they are accelerated by attractive force towards the terminal. When the particles reach the terminal they are stripped of some electrons to make them positively charged and are subsequently accelerated by repulsive forces away from the terminal. This configuration results in two accelerations for the cost of one Van de Graaff generator and has the added advantage of leaving the complicated ion source instrumentation accessible near ground potential.

The voltage produced by an open-air Van de Graaff machine is limited by arcing and corona discharge to about 5 megavolts. Most modern industrial machines are enclosed in a pressurized tank of insulating gas; these can achieve potentials of as much as about 25 megavolts.

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