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Donald Trump says his late uncle, an MIT professor, was proof of family’s smart genes

Donald Trump was at the final round of the Barclays golf tournament Sunday in Edison, N.J.Mel Evans/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump boasts about a lot of things, his business acumen, his wealth, his expensive tastes. Now add this: his DNA.

Trump recently has cited a late uncle, John G. Trump, a renowned professor at MIT, as evidence of his excellent breeding.

"I had an uncle went to MIT who is a top professor. Dr. John Trump. A genius," Trump said in an interview with CNN. "It's in my blood. I'm smart. Great marks. Like really smart."

He touted his uncle's accomplishments again in South Carolina last month.

"Good genes, very good genes. OK, very smart," Trump declared.


John G. Trump, who died at age 77 in 1985 in his home in Cambridge and had his funeral in Winchester, was indeed — by all accounts — really, really smart.

MIT professor John George Trump in June 1952.MIT Museum

While at MIT, working with Robert J. Van de Graaff, he developed one of the first million-volt X-ray generators, which helped cancer patients. During World War II, he helped develop radar and short-wave radar equipment. When Paris was liberated, he rode into the city with General Eisenhower and helped establish a new lab there, according to a memorial tribute published by the National Academy of Engineering.

Trump later worked on projects, supported by the US Army's Natick Labs, on the preservation of food by high voltage radiation. He was also concerned about dumping of raw sewage into waterways, and he studied treatment of sewage at Boston Harbor's Deer Island Sewage Plant. Later, he was chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Lahey Clinic in Boston.

But some of his most notable contributions were the treatment of cancer by radiation, and studying how to radiate deep tumors without harming nearby healthy tissue.

He won numerous awards — including the National Medal of Science, presented posthumously by President Reagan in 1985 — and wrote some 100 scientific papers.


"My father's brother was a brilliant man," Donald Trump said in an interview. "We have very good genetics."

But, Trump is quick to add, his father — who didn't got to college but helped financially support his younger brother's academic pursuits — was just as brilliant as his uncle.

"My father was the same level as my uncle — except the difference is he was working to put my uncle through school," Trump said.

MIT professor John George Trump.MIT Museum

After getting an undergraduate degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1929, and his master's degree in physics came from Columbia University in 1931, Trump earned his doctorate at MIT in 1933, according to a university spokeswoman.

"He was so good he became a professor at MIT," Donald Trump said.

After spending three years as a research associate, Trump was on the faculty for nearly five decades, MIT records show.

One of John G. Trump's daughters, reached in Pittsfield, Mass., declined to comment.

But the Donald remembers his uncle as a man with foresight.

"You know, I'm very much involved in discussions on this horrible act that we're doing on Iran," Trump said.

"My uncle used to tell me about nuclear before nuclear was nuclear," said Trump (an impossible feat, since he was born one year after the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945). "He would tell me, 'There are things that are happening that could be potentially so bad for the world in terms of weaponry.' He understood, literally, nuclear before it was nuclear."


"He was a very smart guy."

Matt Viser can be reached at