A
The International Geophysical Year

Following a suggestion by NAS member Lloyd Berkner, the International Council of Scientific Unions in 1952 proposed a comprehensive series of global geophysical activities to span the period July 1957–December 1958. The International Geophysical Year (IGY), as it was called, was modeled on the International Polar Years of 1882–1883 and 1932–1933 and was intended to allow scientists from around the world to take part in a series of coordinated observations of various geophysical phenomena. Although representatives of 46 countries originally agreed to participate in the IGY, by the close of the activity, 67 countries had become involved.

International organization and funding of the IGY were overseen by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), an independent federation of international scientific unions. A Special Committee for the IGY (CSAGI, an acronym derived from the French) was formed to act as the governing body for all IGY activities. Care had been taken to ensure that CSAGI would remain non-nationalistic, apolitical, and geared toward a scientific agenda.

American participation in the IGY was charged to a US National Committee (USNC) appointed in March 1953 by the NAS. Joseph Kaplan, Professor of Physics at UCLA, was appointed Chairman of the USNC. Physicist Alan H. Shapley of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) was appointed Vice-Chairman, and Hugh Odishaw, also of the NBS, was appointed Executive Secretary (later, Executive Director). The core USNC was made up of sixteen members, but the five Working Groups and thirteen Technical Panels that operated under it eventually drew in nearly 200 additional scientists. The technical panels were formed to pursue work in the following areas: aurora and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, glaciology, gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude determination, meteorology, oceanography, rocketry, seismology, and solar activity. In addition, a technical panel was set up to attempt to launch an artificial satellite into orbit around the earth.

IGY activities literally spanned the globe from the North to the South Poles. Although much work was carried out in the arctic and equatorial regions, special attention was given to the Antarctic, where research on ice depths yielded radically new estimates of the earth’s total ice content. IGY Antarctic research also contributed to improved meteorological prediction, advances in the theoretical analysis of glaciers, and better understanding of seismological phenomena in the Southern Hemisphere.

Given the state of science in the late 1950s, the timing of the IGY was highly opportune. Research technologies and tools had advanced greatly since the 1930s, allowing scientists a scope of investigation without precedent. Cosmic ray recorders, spectroscopes, and radiosonde balloons had opened the upper atmosphere to detailed exploration, while newly developed electronic computers facilitated the analysis of large data sets. But the most dramatic of the new technologies available to the IGY was the rocket. Post–World War II developments in rocketry for the first time made the



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 147
A The International Geophysical Year Following a suggestion by NAS member Lloyd but the five Working Groups and thirteen Technical Berkner, the International Council of Scientific Unions Panels that operated under it eventually drew in nearly in 1952 proposed a comprehensive series of global geo- 200 additional scientists. The technical panels were physical activities to span the period July 1957–Decem- formed to pursue work in the following areas: aurora ber 1958. The International Geophysical Year (IGY ), and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, glaciology, as it was called, was modeled on the International Polar gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude Years of 1882–1883 and 1932–1933 and was intended determination, meteorology, oceanography, rocketry, to allow scientists from around the world to take part seismology, and solar activity. In addition, a technical in a series of coordinated observations of various geo- panel was set up to attempt to launch an artificial satel- physical phenomena. Although representatives of 46 lite into orbit around the earth. countries originally agreed to participate in the IGY, IGY activities literally spanned the globe from the by the close of the activity, 67 countries had become North to the South Poles. Although much work was involved. carried out in the arctic and equatorial regions, special International organization and funding of the IGY attention was given to the Antarctic, where research were overseen by the International Council of Scientific on ice depths yielded radically new estimates of the Unions (ICSU), an independent federation of interna- earth’s total ice content. IGY Antarctic research also tional scientific unions. A Special Committee for the contributed to improved meteorological prediction, IGY (CSAGI, an acronym derived from the French) advances in the theoretical analysis of glaciers, and was formed to act as the governing body for all IGY better understanding of seismological phenomena in activities. Care had been taken to ensure that CSAGI the Southern Hemisphere. would remain non-nationalistic, apolitical, and geared Given the state of science in the late 1950s, the toward a scientific agenda. timing of the IGY was highly opportune. Research American participation in the IGY was charged technologies and tools had advanced greatly since the to a US National Committee (USNC) appointed in 1930s, allowing scientists a scope of investigation with- March 1953 by the NAS. Joseph Kaplan, Professor out precedent. Cosmic ray recorders, spectroscopes, and of Physics at UCLA, was appointed Chairman of the radiosonde balloons had opened the upper atmosphere USNC. Physicist Alan H. Shapley of the National to detailed exploration, while newly developed elec- Bureau of Standards (NBS) was appointed Vice- tronic computers facilitated the analysis of large data Chairman, and Hugh Odishaw, also of the NBS, was sets. But the most dramatic of the new technologies appointed Executive Secretary (later, Executive Direc- available to the IGY was the rocket. Post–World War II tor). The core USNC was made up of sixteen members, developments in rocketry for the first time made the 1

OCR for page 147
1 FORGING THE FUTURE OF SPACE SCIENCE exploration of space a real possibility; working with the The IGY’s achievements included the discovery new technologies, Soviet and American participants of the Van Allen radiation belts encircling the Earth; sent artificial satellites into earth orbit. In successfully the charting of ocean depth and currents; the detailed launching science into space, the IGY may have scored study of the Earth’s magnetic field that led to the its greatest breakthrough. Overall, the IGY was highly revolutionary plate tectonic theory; measurements of successful in achieving its goals, which were summed upper atmospheric winds; the unprecedented setting up in an NAS IGY Program Report: aside of an entire continent (Antarctica) for scientific research, later embodied in the Antarctica Treaty—and ...to obsere geophysical phenomena and to secure data from most dramatically, the launching by rocket of the first all parts of the world; to conduct this effort on a coordinated artificial Earth-orbiting satellites, so inaugurating the basis by fields, and in space and time, so that results could be collated in a meaningful manner. space age