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The International Geophysical Year

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International GeoPhysical Year

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Following a suggestion by NAS member Lloyd Berkner, the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) 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 timed to coincide with the high point of the eleven-year cycle of sunspot activity.

In March of 1953, the NAS appointed a US National Committee to oversee US participation in the IGY. The US program included investigations of aurora and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, glaciology, gravity, the ionosphere, determinations of longitude and latitude, meteorology, oceanography, seismology, solar activity, and the upper atmosphere. In connection with upper atmosphere research, the US undertook to develop an orbiting satellite program. It was from the IGY rocket and satellite research that the US developed its space program -- with the advice of the NAS Space Science Board.

The International Geophysical Year collection contains correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, photographs, and other records documenting the programs and activities of the US National Committee for the IGY. The collection covers the years 1953-1962 and spans approximately 152 linear feet. The historical records of the IGY can be found in the Archives of the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council; e-mail for further information. 

Text copied by permission of the National Academy of Sciences. 

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Updated February 2, 2005