On 5 April 1950 six American geophysicists and a visiting British colleague at a small social gathering outside Washington conceived the idea that a ‘Third International Polar Year’ (IPY3) should be organized for 1957–8. The First and Second Polar Years, programmes of internationally cooperative scientific study of various physical aspects of the Earth’s polar regions, had been held in 1882–3 and 1932–3, at an interval of fifty years. The idea of holding a Third Year only twenty-five years after the Second did not come entirely out of the blue.


World Meteorological Organization Satellite Idea Conspiracy Theory International Geophysical Satellite Project 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
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    Since the 1950s the structure of the international scientific organizations has been roughly three-tiered: an international ‘association’ is centred around a single research field or discipline; a group of formally or informally linked associations, or sometimes of its own internal sections or commissions, makes up a ‘union’; and overall coordination, including the occasional recognition of new unions, is effected by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). Thus in the early 1950s the International Association of Terrestrial Magnetism and Electricity (which was renamed the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy during the run-up to the IGY) was a member organization within the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, which in turn was one of about a dozen unions represented in ICSU: K. O. Murra, International Scientific Organizations: a Guide to their Library, Documentation, and Information Services ( Washington: Library of Congress, 1962 ).Google Scholar
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    R. G. J. Fraser, Once Round the Sun: the Story of the International Geophysical Year 1957–58 ( London: Scientific Book Club, 1957 )Google Scholar
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    See for example: E. M. Emme, History of Space Flight (1965 — ch. 5, n. 34 ), p. 116Google Scholar
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  30. 47.
    W. Sullivan, ‘The International Geophysical Year’, International Conciliation January 1959; Sullivan, Assault on the Unknown (n. 4), p. 32. Sullivan’s omission of Berkner from this part of his narrative is the more interesting in that several passages in the book suggest that he depended heavily on Berkner for inside information about the functioning of CSAGI.Google Scholar

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© Rip Bulkeley 1991

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  • Rip Bulkeley

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