My neighbor, Dr. Van Allen

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I've always loved local history, and I've lately fallen in love with rocketry. So my eyes widened when I read this in an old NY Times obit for rocketry pioneer James Van Allen:

"On April 5, 1950, one of the most ambitious scientific efforts of all time, the International Geophysical Year, was born in his living room in Silver Spring, Md."

Wait, I thought, I live in Silver Spring! (It's a suburb north of Washington DC.) But I never knew James Van Allen did stuff here. So I dug deeper. Read about how in the 1940s Van Allen worked for the JHU's Applied Research Lab in Silver Spring. Wait, I thought, what Applied Research Lab? I did some more digging, found an article with its old address, and Googled it:

Screenshot 2022-01-19 213655.png

Turns out the old APL facilities, the lab where Dr. Van Allen developed the Aerobee and his "Rockoons," is now the PJ's coffee shop about three blocks from my house!

And as for that living room in 1950... I also read that Van Allen's living room was where he and several other geophysicists came up with the idea for the IGY - and that the IGY is what indirectly kicked off the Space Race, as the USSR and USA rushed to put a satellite in orbit for the 1957-58 festivities. Much more important than what goes on in my living room.

Well, after several weeks of searching, I can report that today I finally found the address of Van Allen's Silver Spring house - the only mention I found was from Van Allen, himself, in one interview he did late in life. I Googled the address...and...yes, it's still standing on a quiet residential street, maybe a mile and a half from where I live!

(I'm not posting pics out of respect for the current owner's privacy; anyway, it's just your normal, perfectly nice, post-war house.)

So there's the bit of rocketry history in my own back yard. And come spring, I'll be honoring my famous neighbor by getting my own rockets stuck in trees just a 20 minute drive from his house.
 
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Zeus-cat

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Great find Sherlock! Or are you Dr Watson?
 

Alan15578

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I live in Iowa City. I never did meet James Van Allen, nor attend one of his lectures. However, I did meet Curtis Rostenbock many times. Curtis was Hawkeye Section's second president, I was the third. Curtis attended the University of Iowa and got to work for Dr. Van Allen as his computer operator. We later reconnected through the the Davenport science fiction book club.
 

Kelly

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Pretty Cool! My claim to 'neighbor' fame is living a few doors down from Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay.
 
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Pretty Cool! My claim to 'neighbor' fame is living a few doors down from Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay.
Hey, are you from Columbus? I grew up in Worthington, and I know General Tibbets settled in the area after retiring from the USAF. I met him and several of his crew at a WWII commemoration, but I was too young to fully appreciate who they were. Come out to DC someday and visit the Udvar-Hazy museum - the Enloa Gay is there, fully restored, and you can walk within a couple feet of it.
 
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dhbarr

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Stuart Roosa grew up in my current neighborhood, potentially on my street. I keep meaning to go do a paper records search to find out if any of my property used to belong to the Roosas.
 

Alan R

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"On April 5, 1950, one of the most ambitious scientific efforts of all time, the International Geophysical Year, was born in his living room in Silver Spring, Md."
From one of my all time favorite artists ... I.G.Y. Get your ticket to that wheel in space while there's time.
What a beautiful world this will be...

 
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My neighbors designed and built Nuclear weapons; I used to play in Deke Parson's fallout shelter, and he taught me how to make a bunch of things with my chemistry set My dad didn't approve of. :)
Interestingly - thank you, Google - it seems Deak Parsons also worked at APL, also on proximity fuzes. That’s how he ended up escorting Van Allen on his wartime trips through the Pacific, per the article jmasterj linked.

Man, a lot of cool folks worked where that PJ’s Coffee is now. 😀
 

tsmith1315

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What a beautiful world this will be...


"We'll be eternally free, yes, and eternally young. Oooooh!"

Very cool song and a great LP. And it was Casey Kasem who finally explained what the IGY on the fins of my Aerobee 300 meant...
 
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