James Van Allen

James_VanAllenJames Alfred Van Allen (September 7, 1914–August 9, 2006) was an American space scientist at the University of Iowa.  The Van Allen radiation belts were named after him, following the 1958 satellite missions (Explorer 1 and Explorer 3) in which Van Allen had argued that a Geiger counter should be used to detect charged particles.

Van Allen received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of Iowa in 1939. His doctoral research was on measuring the cross-section of the deuteron-deuteron reaction.

Van Allen was a pathbreaking astrophysicist best known for his work in magnetospheric physics. After the success of the Soviet Union with Sputnik 1, Van Allen's Explorer spacecraft was approved for launch on a Redstone rocket. It flew on 31 January 1958, and returned enormously important scientific data about the radiation belts circling the Earth. Van Allen became a celebrity because of the success of that mission, and he went on to other important scientific projects in space. In one way or another, Van Allen was involved in the first four Explorer probes, the first Pioneers, several Mariner efforts, and the orbiting geophysical observatory. 

James A. Van Allen retired from the University of Iowa in 1985 to become Carver Professor of Physics, Emeritus, after having served as the head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 1951. 

In addition to the William Procter Prize, Van Allen received the Elliott Cresson Medal (1961), Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1978), National Medal of Science (1987), Crafoord Prize (1989), Vannevar Bush Award (1991), NASA's Lifetime Achievement Award (1994), National Air and Space Museum Trophy (2006) and was named TIME magazine Man of the Year in 1960.

Quotation:  Certainly one of the most enthralling things about human life is the recognition that we live in what, for practical purposes, is a universe without bounds.