James van Allen, Our inspiration (September 7, 1914- August 9, 2006) was an american
space scientist at the university of lowa. He was istrumental in establishing the field of
magnetospheric research in space.
In 1951, Van Allen become Professor and head of the university of
lowa department of physics and astronomy, a position he held until he retired form teaching
in 1985. dyrubg tge 1950s, he and his graduate students used the ul football practice field to
launch rockets and “rockoons” -rockets carried aloft by balloons - to conduct comic ray
experiments above the atmosphere. A highlight of that work was the 1953 discovery of
electrons belived to be the driving force behind the aurora. in1956, he proposed the use of
U.S. Satellites for cosmic-ray investigations and through “Preparedness and good fortune, “
he later wrote, the experiment was selected as the principal payload for the first flight of a
four stage juno I rocket in October 1957.
In 1994, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award by
NASA on the occasion of his 80th birthday and the american geophysical union’s 75th
James van Allen’s many other awards and honors include membership I the national academy
of Sciences since 1959 and the national medal of science, the nation’s highest honor for
scientific achievement, presented in 1987 by president Reagan in ceremonies at the white
house in 1989, he received the crafoord prize, awarded by the royal swedish academy of
sciences in stockholm and presented by the king of sweden. The Crafoord prize is the highest
award the academy can bestow for research in a number of scientific fields and, for space
exploration, is the equivalent of the noble prize.
Perhaps his proudest achievement as an educator was leaving his mark on 34 doctoral
students, 47 master’s degree students and, especially, the numerous undergraduates who
enjoyed his classes. In a February 2004 interview he said,. “I taugh ‘General Astronomy’ for
17 years, and it was my favorite course. I spent one or two hours preparing for each lecture
because I had a genuine enthusiasm for the course. Today, I run into people all the time who
say, ‘you don’t remember me, but I took your course in 1985. ‘ Many former students tell me
how much they enjoyed the course.”
James Van Allen died on Agust 9,2006 at University Hospital in lowa city from heart fallure.