Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2006 21:24:19 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: DPS Mailing #06-23: In Memoriam: James Van Allen
In Memoriam: James Van Allen
The pioneering space scientist James A. Van Allen (91) passed away
9 August. Dr. Van Allen was arguably the most famous space physicist
in the world and his pioneering work extended across a wide range of
disciplines. He was a strong advocate of robotic space exploration and
spoke up against NASA funds being diverted from science missions to the
human space program.
Dr Van Allen built the first scientific instrument to go into space, on
the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I. The January 1958 launch came just
months after the Soviets' launch of the first Sputnik satellite. His
particle detectors discovered not only the Earth's radiation belts
(which are named after him) but his instruments were carried to every
planet in the solar system except Pluto (APL carries his legacy on to
Pluto with the PEPSSI instrument on New Horizons). Dr Van Allen
received the DPS' Kuiper Prize in 1994 and his prize lecture
"Electrons, Protons, and Planets" (Icarus, vol. 122, p. 209, 1996) is a
textbook on planetary magnetospheric physics.
The New York Times summarizes his career: "Van Allen was born Sept. 7,
1914, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. As an undergraduate at Iowa Wesleyan
College, he helped prepare research instruments for one of Admiral
Richard E. Byrd's Antarctic expeditions.
He got his master's and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. After
serving in the Naval Reserve during World War II, he was a researcher
at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.,
supervising tests of captured German V-2 rockets and developing similar
rockets to probe the upper atmosphere. His projects included the
Pioneer 10 and 11 flights, which studied Jupiter's radiation belts in
1973 and 1974 and Saturn's radiation belts in 1979. He continued to
monitor data from the Pioneer 10 for decades as it became the most
remote manmade object, billions of miles away.
Van Allen was named to the National Academy of Sciences in 1959. In
1987, he received the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest
honor for scientific achievement. Two years later, he received the
Crafoord Prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in
Stockholm each year since 1982 for scientific research in areas not
recognized by the Nobel Prizes."
Beside his many scientific accomplishments, he was a great educator,
leader, and colleague. He was a mentor to many in the space sciences
and will be missed greatly by all who knew him.
The New York Times obituary:
University of Iowa: http://www.uiowa.edu/
Submitted by Fran Bagenal
Note from the Secretary: I am currently on travel. Announcements
about conferences and the DPS election results will be forthcoming when
I return to my office August 15.--LFE