In the long and rich history of science, international co-operation played a crucial role. Considerable communication between individual scientists, institutions and scientific societies of different lands was established. International co-operation in the setting of scientific standards led to a substantial amount of organized scientific research.
And, one of the modest and large-scale worldwide scientific co-operative ventures was the International Geophysical Year (IGY) which ran from July 1, 1957, all through December 31, 1958. The IGY was a widely renowned project that achieved solid results and some of its discoveries were quite spectacular.
What’s more is that this project served as a trailblazer for a number of other international scientific programs such as the International Years of the Quiet Sun, the World Magnetic Survey, the International Upper Mantle Project and the Hydrological Decade.
In this article, we shall devote particular attention to the goals attained by the International Geophysical Year.
The Origin of IGY
The origins of the idea of the IGY go back to Silver Springs, Maryland during a meeting of geophysicists in 1954. It eventually led to scientists from over sixty-six nations to join hands in order to conduct a thorough study of the earth and sun. The program was under the direction of the Special Committee of the International Geophysical Year and the headquarters of the committee was in Brussels, Belgium.
The IGY was planned to coincide with an expected increase of activity by the sun. Much of the actual research was carried out by national scientific bodies of various countries and citizens of these counties worked in the field and were supported by funds supplied by their governments. Numerous observation stations were established in strategic locations all over the world, even in the Arctic and Antarctic. In this way, important information on different world happenings could be obtained by simultaneous observations made at different latitudes. Special arrangements were made to continue certain lines of research after the end of the IGY. Some of this work in polar exploration, oceanography and other fields is still being carried on.
A vast amount of data was obtained by scientists engaged in the IGY program and several contributions to science were made.
Let us discover some of these scientific contributions:
Progress in Various Elements of the Earth
During the IGY, scientists studied the shape and structure of the earth as well as the gravitational force at different places on its surface. Artificial satellites, launched by rockets, proved exceedingly helpful in these researches. A number of scientific instruments also served such as the gravimeter, magnetometer and seismograph. Among these instruments there was the extensometer which served to register gradual earth movements and it consisted of two piers sunk deeply into the ground and connected by a rigid bar.
With the Markowitz moon camera developed by W. Markowitz of the United States Naval Observatory, IGY astronomers stationed at different vantage points all over the world continuously photographed the moon in successive positions against the background of stars. They were thus able to make an accurate computation of the moon’s orbit around the earth and also to establish earth distances and locations move accurately than before. The location of sites on the earth was also determined with great accuracy by the Danjon astrolabe, designed especially for the IGY program. This device, resembling a sextant, fixed the longitude and latitude of a place by astronomical sightings.
With the aid of these instruments and others, IGY scientists made many notable contributions to the knowledge of our planet. For instance, high ridges and deep valleys in the ocean floor were more exactly determined in many areas during the International Geophysical program. It was demonstrated that ridges like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge belong to a world-wide system of a connected mountain ranges and chasms.
There’s no denying that IGY contributed to several areas of the scientific community – one of the being progress in oceanography. So, if you want to learn more about IGY’s contributions to the pattern of oceanic circulation, don’t forget to come back for part 2.