Skip to main content

Van Allen, James Alfred

James Alfred Van Allen, 1914–2006, American physicist and space scientist, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. A graduate (Ph.D 1939) of and professor of physics (1951–85) at what is now the Univ. of Iowa, where he was an influential teacher, Van Allen discovered what are now known as the Van Allen radiation belts, regions of intense radiation surrounding the earth in space. The belts were first identified by instruments Van Allen prepared that were launched in U.S. Explorer and Pioneer satellites (1958).

During his long, productive career, Van Allen helped develop (1940–42) a proximity fuse for antiaircraft ammunition and subsequently served as a naval gunnery officer in World War II. After the war, he conducted high-altitude research using rockets and balloons, and discovered (1953) the electrons associated with the aurora borealis. Van Allen also was prominent among the scientists who proposed (1950) and organized the international scientific research program that became the International Geophysical Year (1957–58).

Although he supported the development of the U.S. space exploration efforts that culminated in the Apollo space program and moon landings (1969–72), the relative paucity of scientific data reaped by human spaceflight led him to champion the use of space probes and satellites. He subsequently studied the radiation belts of Jupiter and Saturn using data from Pioneer probes and participated in the Galileo mission to Jupiter.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Van Allen, James Alfred." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Van Allen, James Alfred." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/van-allen-james-alfred

"Van Allen, James Alfred." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/van-allen-james-alfred

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.