Iowa Wesleyan celebrates distinguished graduate

Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant celebrated its homecoming last week, and what better way to celebrate than a lecture on the legacy of the school's most famous graduate, James Van Allen.

Dr. Don Gurnett, a physics professor at the University of Iowa and former colleague of Van Allen, spoke in front of a packed audience about space research and of course, the man himself, Van Allen.

Shortly after Van Allen's involvement in the launch of Explorer 1, Gurnett, at that time a student, walked into Van Allen's office, said he was familiar with radio electronics, and asked for a job.

He was hired on the spot.

Gurnett spoke about working with the 1960 time magazine man of the year during an era when the U.S. was trying to keep up with Russia in the space race.

He worked with Van Allen during his famous research on the effects of the radiation belts on earth's magnetic fields.

That wasn't the only accomplishment achieved working with the Iowa space pioneer.

â??We made the first measurements at several of the planets, like first flight to Venus, first flight to Mars, and first flight with the voyager spacecraft which I have an instrument on. And the first measurements of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune,â?? said Gurnett.