Built in 1937, the Westinghouse Atom Smasher, an engineering milestone, was a 5,000,000-volt Van de Graaff electrostatic nuclear accelerator and the centerpiece of the world’s first large-scale nuclear physics program.
The Atom Smasher was designed to create nuclear reactions via bombarding target atoms with a high-energy particle beam. Its 5,000,000 volts accelerated the particles through a vacuum tube that extended from the top of the pear-shaped pressure vessel to its target ~50 feet below.
Research with the Atom Smasher in 1940 led to the discovery of the photo-fission of uranium, but what is so remarkable about it is Westinghouse’s decision to build the generator in 1936, three years before the discovery of nuclear fission opened up the possibilities of nuclear power generation. However, the accelerator went dormant in 1958 and was demolished on 20 January 2015 (in the photo above, you can see the Atom Smasher on the ground as it was dislodged from its supports, was tipped over and laid on its side).