(born Dec. 20, 1901, Tuscaloosa, Ala., U.S.—died Jan. 16, 1967, Boston, Mass.) U.S. physicist. He worked as an engineer, then as a physics researcher at the University of Oxford (1925–29). From 1931 he continued his research at MIT, as a professor (1934–60). He developed a high-voltage electrostatic generator (later called the Van de Graaff generator) that served as a type of particle accelerator. In 1946 he cofounded the High Voltage Engineering Corp. to manufacture his accelerator. Widely used in atomic research, the device was also adapted to produce high-energy X rays for medical and industrial uses.
Learn more about Van de Graaff, Robert J(emison) with a free trial on Britannica.com.
He also served in the Alabama General Assembly from 1837 until 1863.
The Irony is that there are many landmarks in the Tuscaloosa area connected to the Senator Jemison (and there were others). He was active in development in that area, but his death occurred long before the establishment of Mountain Brook and the year of his death is the same as the first year of Birmingham's existence. He was not involved in the city's development.