The 1950s—A Burgeoning Era of Geophysics
Of all the decades during the past half-century, the 1950s may have been the closest to providing a steady-state condition for the pursuit of geophysics. Economic conditions stabilized throughout the world. The European Economic Community was formed in 1957. Japan aggressively rebuilt its domestic economy. The Soviet Union underwent a period of de-Stalinization. The United States, under the benign leadership of General Dwight Eisenhower as president, had an average inflation rate of about one percent per year between 1953 and 1960. Crude oil, whose price had jumped from $1.81 a barrel in 1947 to $2.76 a barrel later that year once price controls came off, was priced at $3.11 a barrel in 1954, a charge that stayed roughly the same for the remainder of the decade. At this price level, the United States had enough surplus oil-producing capacity to fill Europe’s basic needs during a boycott by Middle East producers in 1956–1957, following attacks by Great Britain, France, and Israel on Egypt in October 1956. As for the geophysical industry, it opened the decade doing about $200 million a year in business and built up to an all-time global peak (non-Communist block) of 1040 seismograph crews working throughout the world during 1952.
But the geophysical highlight of the decade was the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958), mankind’s most comprehensive international scientific undertaking, which featured the Soviet Union launching the first two space satellites, Sputniks I and II, in the latter part of 1957. Despite the good feelings rampant within the international