Iowa Wesleyan Celebrates Distinguished Graduate

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dr. Donald A. Gurnett, James A. Van Allen/Roy J. Carver professor of physics at the University of Iowa presented “The Iowa Space Pioneers: The Legacy of James Van Allen” at Iowa Wesleyan College on October 11 during Homecoming activities.

As an undergraduate engineering major, Dr. Gurnett worked for Dr. James Van Allen, Iowa Wesleyan class of 1935 graduate, when he researched the effects of the radiation belts on the earth’s magnetic fields. Later, he became Van Allen’s colleague, and remains the leading scholar at the University of Iowa on Van Allen’s professional life. During his own professional life, he has conducted experiments on more than 30 space missions and greatly advanced the University of Iowa’s reputation for space research.

Dr. James Van Allen is one of Iowa Wesleyan’s most esteemed graduates and Mount Pleasant’s most prominent citizen of the 20th Century. Dr. Van Allen designed scientific instruments for dozens of research flights, first with small rockets and balloons, and eventually with space probes that traveled to distant planets and beyond. He was awarded the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for scientific achievement. He also received the Crafoord Prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for scientific research in areas not recognized by the Nobel Prizes. In 1958, Van Allen confirmed the existence of the radiation belts surrounding the earth’s atmosphere.