Jack Townshend. A scientist who helped understand the way the Earth’s magnetic fields work.
The Early Years
Townshend grew up in Brandywine, MD, the 11th of 12 children in the Samuel G. and Laura S. Townshend family. He became interested in the magnetic observatory field while watching his father, a geophysicist, work at the Cheltenham Magnetic Observatory near Washington, D.C. After his father retired in 1946, Townshend convinced the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey (USC&GS) to allow him to fill the position with only a high school diploma under his belt. He started on a three-month trial period with the agreement that he would work toward a college degree. Although Townshend never received that degree, he stayed with the survey service, and after 17 years in the D.C. area, he was appointed chief of the USC&GS College Observatory (CO) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in April 1963.
For more than 33 years, Townshend served as chief of the College Observatory at UAF under several federal agencies: the USC&GS, Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
In June 1996, one of Townshend’s visions became reality when the new College International Geophysical Observatory (CIGO) was completed and dedicated. For 10 years leading up to that day, Townshend had nurtured the idea of creating such a facility and oversaw its eventual development. He served for more than six years as chief of the CIGO until October 2002 when the CIGO was transferred from the USGS to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Since that time, Townshend has served as principal consultant to the UAF Geophysical Institute for the operation of the CIGO. In October 2002, Townshend was appointed, “Special Projects Coordinator” for the USGS Geomagnetism Program while continuing to maintain his office at UAF.