The Info List - International Geophysical Year

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The International Geophysical Year
International Geophysical Year
(IGY; French: Année géophysique internationale) was an international scientific project that lasted from July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958. It marked the end of a long period during the Cold War
Cold War
when scientific interchange between East and West had been seriously interrupted. Joseph Stalin's death in 1953 opened the way for this new era of collaboration. Sixty-seven countries participated in IGY projects, although one notable exception was the mainland People's Republic of China, which was protesting against the participation of the Republic of China (Taiwan). East and West agreed to nominate the Belgian Marcel Nicolet as secretary general of the associated international organization.[1][2] The IGY encompassed eleven Earth sciences: aurora and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude determinations (precision mapping), meteorology, oceanography, seismology, and solar activity.[2] The timing of IGY was particularly suited to some of these phenomena, since it covered the peak of solar cycle 19. Both the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
and the U.S. launched artificial satellites for this event; the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, launched on October 4, 1957, was the first successful artificial satellite.[3] Other significant achievements of the IGY included the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts by Explorer 1
Explorer 1
and the defining of mid-ocean submarine ridges, an important confirmation of plate tectonics.[4] Also detected was the rare occurrence of hard solar corpuscular radiation that could be highly dangerous for manned space flight.[5][6]


1 Events 2 World Data Centers 3 Antarctica 4 Arctic 5 Participating countries 6 Legacy 7 IGY representations in popular culture 8 See also 9 References and sources 10 External links


A commemorative stamp issued by Japan
in 1957 to mark the IGY. The illustration depicts the Japanese Research Ship Sōya and a penguin.

The International Geophysical Year
International Geophysical Year
traces its origins to the International Polar Years, which had been held in 1882–1883 and 1932–1933 (and would be held again in 2007–2009). In March 1950, several top scientists (including Lloyd Berkner, Sydney Chapman, S. Fred Singer, and Harry Vestine), met in James Van Allen's living room and suggested that the time was ripe to have a worldwide Geophysical Year instead of a Polar Year, especially considering recent advances in rocketry, radar, and computing. Berkner and Chapman proposed to the International Council of Scientific Unions
International Council of Scientific Unions
that an International Geophysical Year (IGY) be planned for 1957–58, coinciding with an approaching period of maximum solar activity, [7][8] and in 1952 this was announced. [9] On 29 July 1955, James C. Hagerty, president Dwight D. Eisenhower's press secretary, announced that the United States
United States
intended to launch "small Earth circling satellites" between 1 July 1957 and 31 December 1958 as part of the United States
United States
contribution to the International Geophysical Year (IGY). Project Vanguard
Project Vanguard
would be managed by the Naval Research Laboratory and to be based on developing sounding rockets, which had the advantage that they were primarily used for non-military scientific experiments.[10] Four days later, at the Sixth Congress of International Astronautical Federation in Copenhagen, scientist Leonid I. Sedov
Leonid I. Sedov
spoke to international reporters at the Soviet embassy, and announced his country's intention to launch a satellite as well, in the "near future".[11] To the surprise of many, the USSR
launched Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
as the first artificial Earth satellite on October 4, 1957. After several failed Vanguard launches, Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
and his team convinced President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
to use one of their US Army missiles for the Explorer program (there then being no inhibition about using military rockets to get into space). On November 8, 1957, the US Secretary of Defense instructed the US Army to use a modified Jupiter-C
rocket to launch a satellite. The US achieved this goal only four months later with Explorer 1, on February 1, 1958, but after Sputnik 2
Sputnik 2
in November 3, 1957, making Explorer 1
Explorer 1
the third artificial Earth satellite. Vanguard 1
Vanguard 1
became the fourth, launched on March 17, 1958. The Soviet victory in the "Space Race" would be followed by considerable political consequences,[12] one of which was the creation of the US space agency NASA on July 29, 1958. The British-American survey of the Atlantic, carried out between September 1954 and July 1959, that discovered full length of the mid-Atlantic ridges (plate tectonics), was a major discovery during the IGY.[13] World Data Centers[edit]

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Although the 1932 Polar Year accomplished many of its goals, it fell short on others because of the advance of World War II. In fact, because of the war, much of the data collected and scientific analyses completed during the 1932 Polar Year were lost forever. The potential loss of data to war and politics was particularly troubling to the IGY organizing committee. The committee resolved that "all observational data shall be available to scientists and scientific institutions in all countries." They felt that without the free exchange of data across international borders, there would be no point in having an IGY. In April 1957, just three months before the IGY began, scientists representing the various disciplines of the IGY established the World Data Center system. The United States
United States
hosted World Data Center "A" and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
hosted World Data Center "B." World Data Center "C" was subdivided among countries in Western Europe, Australia, and Japan. Today, NOAA hosts seven of the fifteen World Data Centers in the United States. Each World Data Center would eventually archive a complete set of IGY data to deter losses prevalent during the International Polar Year
International Polar Year
of 1932. Each World Data Center was equipped to handle many different data formats, including computer punch cards and tape—the original computer media. In addition, each host country agreed to abide by the organizing committee’s resolution that there should be a free and open exchange of data among nations. [14] [15] [16] ICSU-WDS goals are to preserve quality assured scientific data and information, to facilitate open access, and promote the adoption of standards.[17]ICSU World Data System
World Data System
created in 2008 superseded the World Data Centeres (WDCs) and Federation of Astronomical and Geophysical data analysis Services (FAGS) created by ICSU
to manage data generated by the International Geophysical Year[18][19][20] Antarctica[edit] IGY triggered an 18-month year of Antarctic
science. The International Council of Scientific Unions, a parent body, broadened the proposals from polar studies to geophysical research. More than 70 existing national scientific organizations then formed IGY committees, and participated in the cooperative effort. Halley Research Station
Halley Research Station
was founded in 1956, for IGY, by an expedition from the Royal Society. The bay where the expedition set up their base was named Halley Bay, after the astronomer Edmond Halley. In Japan, the Antarctic
exploration was planned in 1955 by Monbushō and Science and technology Agency. Japan
Maritime Safety Agency offered ice breaker Sōya as the South Pole
South Pole
observation ship. The first Antarctic
observation corps commanded by Takeshi Nagata left Japan
in 1956, arriving at Antarctica
on January 29, 1957. Showa Station was the first Japanese observation base on Antarctica
and was set up on same day.[21] France
contributed with Dumont d'Urville Station
Dumont d'Urville Station
and Charcot Station in Adélie Land. As a forerunner expedition, the ship Commandant Charcot of the French Navy
French Navy
spent nine months of 1949/50 at the coast of Adelie Land. Ionospheric soundings were performed aboard this ship.[22] The first French station, Port Martin, was completed April 9, 1950, but destroyed by fire the night of January 22 to 23, 1952.[23] Belgium
established the King Baudouin Base in 1958. The expedition was led by Gaston de Gerlache, son of Adrien de Gerlache
Adrien de Gerlache
who had led the 1897–1899 Belgian Antarctic
Expedition.[24] The Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station
Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station
was erected as the first permanent structure at the South Pole
South Pole
in January 1957. It survived intact for 53 years, but was slowly buried in the ice (as all structures there eventually sink into the icy crust), until it was demolished in December 2010 for safety reasons.[25] Arctic[edit] Ice Skate 2 was a floating research station constructed and manned by U.S. scientists. It mapped the bottom of the Arctic
Ocean. Zeke Langdon was a meteorologist on the project. Ice Skate 2 was planned to be manned in 6 month shifts. But due to soft ice surfaces for landing some crew members were stationed for much longer. At one point they lost all communications with anyone over their radios for one month except the expedition on the South Pole.[clarification needed] At one point the ice sheet broke up and their fuel tanks started floating away from the base. They had to put pans under the plane engines as soon as they landed as any oil spots would go straight through the ice in the intense sunshine. Their only casualty was a man who got too close to the propeller with the oil pan.[26] Norbert Untersteiner was the project leader for Drifting Station Alpha and in 2008 produced and narrated a documentary about the project for the National Snow and Ice Data Center.[27] Participating countries[edit] The participating countries for the IGY included the following:[28]

 Argentina  Australia  Austria  Belgium  Bolivia  Brazil  Bulgaria  Burma  Canada  Ceylon  Chile  Colombia  Cuba  Czechoslovakia  Denmark  Dominican Republic East Africa

Kenya Tanganyika Uganda

 Ecuador  Egypt  Ethiopia  Finland

 France  Germany, East  Germany, West  Ghana  Greece  Guatemala  Hungary  Iceland  India  Indonesia  Iran  Ireland  Israel  Italy  Japan  Korea, North  Malaya  Mexico  Mongolia  Morocco  Netherlands  New Zealand  Norway  Pakistan

 Panama  Peru  Philippines  Poland  Portugal  Rhodesia and Nyasaland  Romania  South Africa  Soviet Union  Spain  Sweden   Switzerland  Taiwan  Thailand  Tunisia  Great Britain  United States  Uruguay  Venezuela  Vietnam, North  Vietnam, South  Yugoslavia

Legacy[edit] In the end, the IGY was a resounding success. In some fields, data collection was incomplete, and so informal extensions were added and new cooperative efforts were forged. The IGY led to several advancements that live on today. For example, the work of the IGY led directly to the Antarctic
Treaty, which called for the use of Antarctica
for peaceful purposes and cooperative scientific research. Since then, international cooperation has led to protecting the Antarctic
environment, preserving historic sites, and conserving the animals and plants. Today, 41 nations have signed the Treaty and international collaborative research continues. The ICSU World Data System
ICSU World Data System
(WDS) was created by the 29th General Assembly of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and builds on the 50-year legacy of the former ICSU
World Data Centres (WDCs) and former Federation of Astronomical and Geophysical data-analysis Services (FAGS).[29] This World Data System, hosts the repositories for data collected during the IGY. Seven of the 15 World Data Centers in the United States are co-located at NOAA National Data Centers or at NOAA affiliates. These ICSU
Data Centers not only preserve historical data, but also promote research and ongoing data collection.[30] The fourth International Polar Year
International Polar Year
on 2007–2008 focused on climate change and its effects on the polar environment. Sixty countries participated in this effort and it will include studies in the Arctic and Antarctic.[31] IGY representations in popular culture[edit]

"I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)" is a track on Donald Fagen's 1982 album, The Nightfly. The song is sung from an optimistic viewpoint during the IGY, and features references to then-futuristic concepts, such as solar power (first used in 1958), Spandex
(invented in 1959), space travel for entertainment, and undersea international high-speed rail.[32] The song peaked at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100
on 27 November – 11 December 1982 and was nominated for a Grammy
award for song of the year.[33] The IGY is featured prominently during 1957–1958 run of Pogo comic strips by Walt Kelly. The characters in the strip refer to the scientific initiative as the "G.O. Fizzickle Year." During this run, the characters try to make their own contributions to scientific endeavours, such as putting a flea on the moon. A subsequent compilation of the strips was published by Simon & Schuster SC in 1958 as G.O. Fizzickle Pogo and later Pogo's Will Be That Was in 1979. The IGY was featured in a cartoon by Russell Brockbank in Punch magazine in November 1956. It shows the three main superpowers UK, USA and USSR
at the South Pole, each with a gathering of penguins which they are trying to educate with "culture". The penguins in the British camp are being bored with Francis Bacon; in the American camp they are happily playing baseball, while the Russian camp resembles a gulag, with barbed-wire fences and the penguins are made to march and perform military maneuvers. The Alistair Maclean
Alistair Maclean
novel Night Without End
Night Without End
takes place in and around an IGY research station in Greenland. The IGY features in two episodes of the 1960-61 season of the documentary television series Expedition!: "The Frozen Continent" and "Man's First Winter At The South Pole".

See also[edit]

International Biological Program International Year of Planet Earth List of Antarctic
expeditions Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station

References and sources[edit]


^ Administration, US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric. "Rockets, Radar, and Computers: The International Geophysical Year".  ^ a b Everts, Sarah (2016). "Information Overload". Distillations. 2 (2): 26–33. Retrieved 20 March 2018.  ^ "International GeoPhysical Year".  ^ "IGY History". ESRL Global Monitoring Division. Retrieved 14 August 2015.  ^ WMO, Archives,. "The International Geophysical Year, 1957–1958".  ^ "Korolev, Sputnik, and The International Geophysical Year".  ^ "The International Geophysical Year". National Academy of Sciences. 2005. Retrieved 14 August 2015.  ^ Matthew Kohut (Fall 2008). "Shaping the Space Age: The International Geophysical Year". ASK Magazine. NASA (32). Archived from the original on 19 February 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2012.  ^ https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200710/physicshistory.cfm ^ "Vanguard Project". U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Retrieved 2015-08-13.  ^ Schefter, James (1999). The Race: The uncensored story of how America beat Russia to the Moon. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-49253-7.  ^ Winter, Frank H; van der Linden, Robert (November 2007), "Out of the Past", Aerospace America, p. 38  ^ "Rockets, Radar, and Computers: The International Geophysical Year". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. US Department of Commerce. May 12, 2017.  ^ " World Data System
World Data System
(WDS)". Retrieved 12 June 2013.  ^ Ad hoc Strategic Committee on Information and Data. Final Report to the ICSU
Committee on Scientific Planning and Review (PDF). ICSU. 2008. p. 25.  ^ Ad -hoc Strategic Coordinating Committee on Information and Data Interim Report to the ICSU
Committee on Scientific Planning and Review (PDF). ICSU. 2011. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-930357-85-6.  ^ "Constitution of the International Council for Science World Data System ( ICSU
WDS)" (PDF). Retrieved 12 June 2013. [permanent dead link] ^ "International science community to build a 'World Data System'". itnews. 28 Oct 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2013.  ^ Cheryl Pellerin. "International Science Council to Revamp World Data Centers". Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2013.  ^ US National Academies. "The International Geophysical Year". Retrieved 21 June 2013.  ^ Agency, Japan
Aerospace Exploration. "ISAS – International Geophysical Year / History of Japanese Space Research".  ^ M. Barré, K. Rawer: "Quelques résultats d’observations ionosphériques effectuées près de la Terre Adélie". Journal of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics volume 1, issue 5–6 (1951), pp. 311–314. ^ "French IGY – Following the Data of the International Geophysical Year (1957–8)".  ^ " Belgium
Federal Science Policy and Polar Secretariat – Home".  ^ "South Pole's first building blown up after 53 years". OurAmazingPlanet.com. 2011-03-31.  ^ Harrington, Jon. "Shared Photographs". Google Photos. Retrieved March 25, 2016.  ^ "International Geophysical Year, 1957-1958: Drifting Station Alpha Documentary Film, Version 1".  ^ Nicolet, M. "The International Geophysical Year
International Geophysical Year
1957/58" (PDF). World Meteorological Organization. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.  ^ "Introduction to ICSU
World Data System". ICSU. Retrieved 17 July 2013.  ^ " ICSU
World Data System". ICSU. Retrieved 17 July 2013.  ^ " International Polar Year
International Polar Year
2007–2008". Retrieved 17 July 2013.  ^ "Lyrics – The Nightfly
The Nightfly
(1982) – D. Fagen Solo". Steelydan.com. Retrieved 14 August 2015.  ^ "25th Grammy
Awards list of nominees". grammy.com. 1983. Retrieved 16 April 2016. 


University of Saskatchewan Archives History of ionosondes, at the U.K.'s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory History of arctic exploration James Van Allen, From High School to the Beginning of the Space Era: A Biographical Sketch by George Ludwig Fraser, Ronald. (1957). Once Round the Sun: The Story of the International Geophysical Year, 1957–58. London, England: Hodder and Stroughton Limited. Schefter, James (1999). The Race: The uncensored story of how America beat Russia to the Moon. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-49253-7.  Sullivan, Walter. (1961). Assault on the Unknown: The International Geophysical Year. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. Wilson, J. Tuzo. (1961). IGY: The Year of the New Moons. New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to International Geophysical Year.

Documents regarding the International Geophysical Year, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library "IGY On the Ice", produced by Barbara Bogaev, Soundprint. 2011 radio documentary with John C. Behrendt, Tony Gowan, Phil Smith, and Charlie Bentley.

v t e

Events commemorating achievements in the sciences

Anniversary celebrations

Alfred Russel Wallace centenary Darwin Centennial Celebration (1959)

Regular holidays

Ada Lovelace Day Darwin Day DNA Day Evolution Day Mole Day Pi Day Yuri's Night

Year long events

First International Polar Year
International Polar Year
(1882-1883) Second International Polar Year
International Polar Year
(1932-1933) International Polar Year
International Polar Year
(2007-2008) International Geophysical Year International Year of Planet Earth International Year of Astronomy International Year of Chemistry International Year of Crystallography International Year of Light International Space Year World Year of Physics 2005

v t e

Polar exploration


Ocean History Expeditions Research stations

Farthest North North Pole

Barentsz Hudson Marmaduke Carolus Parry North Magnetic Pole

J. Ross J. C. Ross Abernethy Kane Hayes


Polaris C. F. Hall

British Arctic

HMS Alert Nares HMS Discovery Stephenson Markham

Lady Franklin Bay Expedition

Greely Lockwood Brainard

1st Fram

Fram Nansen Johansen Sverdrup



F. Cook Peary Sedov Byrd Airship Norge

Amundsen Nobile Wisting Riiser-Larsen Ellsworth

Airship Italia Nautilus



Chkalov Baydukov Belyakov

"North Pole" manned drifting ice stations NP-1

Papanin Shirshov E. Fyodorov Krenkel

NP-36 NP-37 Sedov

Badygin Wiese

USS Nautilus USS Skate Plaisted Herbert NS Arktika Barneo Arktika 2007

Mir submersibles Sagalevich Chilingarov

Iceland Greenland

Pytheas Brendan Papar Vikings Naddodd Svavarsson Arnarson Norse colonization of the Americas Ulfsson Galti Erik the Red Christian IV's expeditions

J. Hall Cunningham Lindenov C. Richardson

Danish colonization


Scoresby Jason

Nansen Sverdrup

Peary Rasmussen

Northwest Passage Northern Canada

Cabot G. Corte-Real M. Corte-Real Frobisher Gilbert Davis Hudson Discovery

Bylot Baffin

Munk I. Fyodorov Gvozdev HMS Resolution

J. Cook

HMS Discovery


Mackenzie Kotzebue J. Ross HMS Griper


HMS Hecla


HMS Fury


Crozier J. C. Ross Coppermine Expedition Franklin Back Dease Simpson HMS Blossom


Franklin's lost expedition

HMS Erebus HMS Terror

Collinson Rae–Richardson Expedition

Rae J. Richardson

Austin McClure Expedition

HMS Investigator McClure HMS Resolute Kellett

Belcher Kennedy Bellot Isabel


2nd Grinnell Expedition

USS Advance Kane



HMS Pandora






Rasmussen Karluk

Stefansson Bartlett

St. Roch

H. Larsen


North East Passage Russian Arctic

Pomors Koch boats Willoughby Chancellor Barentsz Mangazeya Hudson Poole Siberian Cossacks Perfilyev Stadukhin Dezhnev Popov Ivanov Vagin Permyakov Great Northern Expedition

Bering Chirikov Malygin Ovtsyn Minin V. Pronchishchev M. Pronchishcheva Chelyuskin Kh. Laptev D. Laptev

Chichagov Lyakhov Billings Sannikov Gedenschtrom Wrangel Matyushkin Anjou Litke Lavrov Pakhtusov Tsivolko Middendorff Austro-Hungarian Expedition

Weyprecht Payer

Vega Expedition

A. E. Nordenskiöld Palander

USS Jeannette

De Long




Toll Kolomeitsev Matisen Kolchak

Sedov Rusanov Kuchin Brusilov Expedition

Sv. Anna Brusilov Albanov Konrad

Wiese Nagórski Taymyr / Vaygach






Begichev Urvantsev Sadko








Chelyuskin Krassin Gakkel Nuclear-powered icebreakers

NS Lenin Arktika class


Continent History Expeditions

Southern Ocean

Roché Bouvet Kerguelen HMS Resolution

J. Cook

HMS Adventure


Smith San Telmo Vostok




Bransfield Palmer Davis Weddell Morrell Astrolabe

Dumont d'Urville

United States
United States
Exploring Expedition

USS Vincennes Wilkes

USS Porpoise


Ross expedition

HMS Erebus (J. C. Ross Abernethy) HMS Terror (Crozier)

Cooper Challenger expedition

HMS Challenger Nares Murray


C. A. Larsen

"Heroic Age"

Belgian Antarctic

Belgica de Gerlache Lecointe Amundsen Cook Arctowski Racoviță Dobrowolski

Southern Cross

Southern Cross Borchgrevink


Discovery Discovery Hut


Gauss Drygalski

Swedish Antarctic

Antarctic O. Nordenskjöld C. A. Larsen

Scottish Antarctic

Bruce Scotia

Orcadas Base Nimrod Expedition


French Antarctic

Pourquoi-Pas Charcot

Japanese Antarctic


Amundsen's South Pole
South Pole

Fram Amundsen Framheim Polheim

Terra Nova

Terra Nova Scott Wilson E. R. Evans Crean Lashly

Filchner Australasian Antarctic

SY Aurora Mawson

Far Eastern Party Imperial Trans- Antarctic

Endurance Ernest Shackleton Wild

James Caird Ross Sea party


Shackleton–Rowett Expedition


IPY · IGY Modern research

Christensen Byrd BANZARE BGLE


New Swabia


Operation Tabarin


Operation Highjump Captain Arturo Prat Base British Antarctic
Survey Operation Windmill


Ronne Expedition

F. Ronne E. Ronne Schlossbach

Operation Deep Freeze McMurdo Station Commonwealth Trans- Antarctic

Hillary V. Fuchs

Soviet Antarctic


Somov Klenova Mirny





Treaty System Transglobe Expedition

Fiennes Burton

Lake Vostok Kapitsa

Farthest South South Pole

HMS Resolution

J. Cook

HMS Adventure


Weddell HMS Erebus

J. C. Ross

HMS Terror


Southern Cross





Shackleton Wild Marshall Adams

South Magnetic Pole

Mawson David Mackay

Amundsen's South Pole
South Pole

Fram Amundsen Bjaaland Helmer Hassel Wisting Polheim

Terra Nova

Scott E. Evans Oates Wilson Bowers

Byrd Balchen McKinley Dufek Amundsen–Scott South Pole
South Pole
Station Hillary V. Fuchs Pole of Cold

Vostok Station

Pole of inaccessibility

Pole of Inaccessibility Station Tolstikov

Crary A. Fuchs Messner

Authority control