James Van Allen

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Astrophysicist and space pioneer James Van Allen (1914-2006), for whom the Van Allen radiation belts were named, was among the principal scientific investigators for twenty-four space missions, including Explorer I in 1958, the first successful U.S. satellite; Mariner 2's 1962 flyby of Venus, the first successful mission to another planer; and the 1970's Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, missions that surveyed Jupiter and Saturn. Drawing on Van Allen's correspondence and publications, years of interviews with him as well as with more than a hundred other scientists, and declassified documents from such archives as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Kennedy Space Center, and the Applied Physics Laboratory. Often called the father of space science, Van Allen led the way to mapping a new solar system based on the solar wind, massive solar storms, and cosmic rays. Foerstner's compelling biography charts the eventful life and times of this trailblazing physicist.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The name Van Allen (1914-2006) is known primarily today through the eponymous belt of radiation discovered in 1958 by equipment he placed on America's first satellite. But science writer Foerstner (Picturing Utopia: Bertha Shambaugh and the Amana Photographers) says, "Van Allen's career crystallizes the entire history of space exploration." She tells the story of the Iowa boy who became a major scientific figure but spent his entire professional career working out of the backyard workshop environs of the physics building at the University of Iowa. Van Allen went on to design experiments for early missions to Venus and Mars that determined these planets do not have magnetic fields. Late in his career, the famous Pioneer X and XI voyages to the far reaches of the solar system carried his instruments. Foerstner portrays Van Allen as a wheeler-dealer, knowledgeable in the political workings of NASA but also, in the best Midwestern tradition, a staunch advocate of his students and colleagues. The author had access to all of Van Allen's papers and diaries, and space buffs interested in an important figure of the space era will find this bio worthwhile. 52 photos. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877459996
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2007
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Abigail Foerstner teaches science writing and news writing in the graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. As a staff reporter for the suburban sections of the Chicago Tribune, she covered science and the environment for nearly ten years. She spent seven years researching and writing James Van Allen: The First Eight Billion Miles.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     xv
Abbreviations and Acronyms     xix
Frontier Roots     1
Heartland Boyhood     16
The Making of a Scientist     35
Physicists to the War Effort     50
Enter Abigail Fithian Halsey     67
The Dawn of Space Exploration     75
The Mighty Little Aerobee     93
It's a Rocket! It's a Balloon! It's a Rockoon!     106
Sputnik and the Space Race     122
Countdown to Explorer I     142
Celebrity Scientist and the Birth of NASA     161
Discovery of the Radiation Belts     175
Space Shield for the Cold War     187
Space as a Cottage Industry     200
The Mariners     213
Pioneers to the Outer Planets     229
Space Politics     248
Journey to the Edge of the Solar System     265
Notes     277
Selected Bibliography     295
Index     301
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