American physicist who in 1929 invented an improved electrostatic generator (later called the Van de Graaff generator) that was adapted for use as a particle accelerator. The generator became an important research tool for atomic physicists and was also used to produce high-energy x-rays helpful in treating cancer.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.