Scientist. He was an astrophysicist who was well known for his work with the United States space program during its early years. Van Allen helped with the design and manufacture of some of the insturments used on early space probes, including Explorer I (the first US satellite). He discovered the bands of radiation surrounding the Earth; these bands of radiation were named the Van Allen Belts in his honor. Later, he designed instruments for Mariner 2, the first probe to orbit Venus. Dr. Van Allen was born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. He was class valedictorian of his high school class in 1931. Van Allen earned his Bachelor's degree from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1935, a Master's Degree from the University of Iowa a year later, followed by a PhD, also from Iowa, in 1939. Dr. Van Allen retired from full time teaching in 1985, however, he continued to write, oversee research projects, and talk with students in later years. Van Allen favored unmanned probes, and spoke out frequently against manned space missions. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded Van Allen the National Medal of Science, the highest American award for work in the sciences. In 1989, Van Allen also won the Crafoord Prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; it is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for scientific research that does not fall into one of the strict categories governing the more widely known Nobel Prizes.
Bio by: Jesse
Abigail Fithian Halsey VanAllen