Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Planetary Science

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Science pp 876-876

Van Allen, James Alfred (1914-)

  • Bruce Randall

A pioneer in space research, Van Allen was born in Mount Pleasant Iowa on 7 September 1914, the second of four children of Alfred Morris and Alma E. (Olney) Van Allen. His father was a lawyer as was his older brother George. The three younger sons all developed an interest in science; James and William received degrees in physics and Maurice became a neurosurgeon. James attended Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, graduating summa cum laude in 1935 with a BS in physics. The following year he received an MS from the State University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa (now called the University of Iowa). He graduated with his PhD in nuclear physics in 1939 from the same school and became a research fellow and later a physicist in nuclear physics at Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC. In 1941 he developed an interest in cosmic ray research and switched to the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the same institution.

In 1942 he became a physicist at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) ...

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