International Geophysical Year
The International Geophysical Year (IGY) was an international scientific project that lasted from July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958. It marked the end, after Joseph Stalin's death, of a long period during the Cold War when scientific interchange between East and West was seriously interrupted. 67 countries participated, although one notable exception was mainland 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.
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.
Both the 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. Other significant achievements of the IGY included the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts and the discovery of mid-ocean submarine ridges, an important confirmation of plate tectonics. Also detected was the rare occurrence of hard solar corpuscular radiation that could be highly dangerous for manned space flight.
The International Geophysical Year traces its origins to the International Polar Years, which had been held in 1882–1883 and 1932–1933 (and more recently 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. Following the March 1950 meeting, Berkner and Chapman proposed to the 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.
In 1955, the U.S. announced Project Vanguard as part of the US contribution to the International Geophysical Year, a project to launch an artificial satellite into an orbit around the Earth. It was to be run by the US Navy and to be based on developing sounding rockets, which had the advantage that they were primarily used for non-military scientific experiments.
To the surprise of many, the USSR launched Sputnik 1 as the first artificial Earth satellite on October 4, 1957. After several failed Vanguard launches, Wernher von Braun and his team convinced President 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 in November 3, 1957, making Explorer 1 the third artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet victory in the "Space Race" would be followed by considerable political consequences, one of which was the creation of the US space agency NASA on July 29, 1958.
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.
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 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.
France contributed with Dumont d'Urville Station and Charcot Station in Adélie Land. As a forerunner expedition, the ship Commandant Charcot of the French Navy spent nine months of 1949/50 at the coast of Adelie Land. Ionospheric soundings were performed aboard this ship. The first French station, Port Martin, was completed April 9, 1950, but destroyed by fire the night of January 22 to 23, 1952.
The Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station was erected as the first permanent structure at the 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.
IGY representations in popular culture 
- "I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)" is a track on Steely Dan founding member 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. The song peaked at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 27 November – 11 December 1982.
- 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 whom 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.
- In the concluding remarks of episode 25, season 3 of Alfred Hitchcock Presents titled "Flight to the East", Hitchcock remarks to the audience, "Until then, good night and a happy International Geophysical Year to all of you."
See also 
- List of Antarctic expeditions
- International Biological Program
- Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station
- International Year of Planet Earth
References & Footnotes 
- ESRL Global Monitoring Division
- The International Geophysical Year, 1957/1958
- Matthew Kohut (Fall 2008). "Shaping the Space Age: The International Geophysical Year". ASK Magazine (NASA) (32). Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- van der Linden, Frank H (November 2007), "Out of the Past", Aerospace America: p38 More than one of
- 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.
- "South Pole's first building blown up after 53 years". OurAmazingPlanet.com. 2011-03-31.
- SteelyDan.com page: "The Nightfly lyrics".
- M'MURDO IS HUB OF A MAN'S LAND; Cold Man's World of Antarctica Is the Way U.S. Volunteers Like It, New York Times, November 5, 1957 page 33.
- 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.