Famed physicist James Van Allen dead at 91

Aug 09, 2006

Renowned physicist James Van Allen, who helped launch the United States into the space age and for whom the Van Allen radiation belts are named, has died. He was 91.

Interim University of Iowa President Gary Fethke announced the Van Allen's death Wednesday, but offered no details, the Des Moines Register reported.

Explorer I, the first successful U.S. space venture, carried, at Van Allen's insistence, a small Geiger counter. That led to a significant scientific finding: the discovery of two belts of intense radiation that surround the Earth.

Although his scientific accomplishments were myriad, he opposed manned space flight: "Man is a fabulous nuisance in space right now (1959). He's not worth all the costs of putting him up there and keeping him comfortable."

He once offered his own explanation of space: "It is that in which everything else is ... in other words, space is the hole that we are in."

In 1951 Van Allen became a professor and head of the University of Iowa's Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Register reported. He held that position until he retired from teaching in 1985.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: The risks of blowing your own trumpet too soon on research

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Van Allen Probes show how to accelerate electrons

Jul 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —One of the great, unanswered questions for space weather scientists is just what creates two gigantic donuts of radiation surrounding Earth, called the Van Allen radiation belts. Recent data ...

NASA's BARREL mission launches 20 balloons

May 21, 2013

(Phys.org) —In Antarctica in January, 2013 – the summer at the South Pole – scientists released 20 balloons, each eight stories tall, into the air to help answer an enduring space weather question: ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0