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Albert William Stevens
File:CPT Albert Stevens.jpg
Born (1886-03-13)March 13, 1886
Belfast, Maine
Died March 26, 1949(1949-03-26) (aged 63)
Redwood City, California

Albert William Stevens (March 13, 1886 - March 26, 1949 in Redwood City, California) was an officer in the United States Army Air Corps, balloonist and aerial photographer.

Explorer II gondola in the National Air and Space Museum


He was born on 13 March 1886 in Belfast, Maine.

While flying over South America in 1930, Stevens took the first photograph of the Earth in a way that the horizon's curvature is visible.[1] To cut through haze, Stevens often employed infrared-sensitive film for long-distance aerial shots whose subjects were visually obscured.[2]

Accompanied by Lt. Charles D. McAllister of the Army Air Corps, Stevens took the first photograph of the Moon's shadow projected onto the Earth during a solar eclipse in August, 1932.[3]

On 29 July 1934 Stevens and two other US Army officers, Major William Kepner and Captain Orvil Arson Anderson, ascended in a specially-constructed balloon and gondola named Explorer I over north-western Nebraska in an attempt to break the current altitude record for manned flight. However, nearing the current record height, the balloon envelope ruptured, sending the gondola plunging to earth. Fortunately, all three crew were able to eventually exit and parachute to earth before the gondola crashed into a farm field.[4]

On 11 November 1935 Stevens, along with Captain Orvil A. Anderson of the Army Air Corps, made a record balloon ascent from the Stratobowl near Rapid City, South Dakota.[5] There were 20,000 spectators, while millions listened to a live NBC broadcast.[6] Their sealed gondola Explorer II climbed to 72,395 feet (22.065 km), nearly 14 miles, a record unequaled until 1956.[7][8][9]

He died on 26 March 1949 in Redwood City, California.

See also[]

  • Flight altitude record


  1. Laurence, William L. (Dec. 31, 1930). "EARTH'S CURVE SEEN IN PHOTO FROM PLANE; Picture Shown to Scientists Has Rounding of Horizon 300 Miles Away". NYTimes. p. 1. 
  2. Popular Mechanics,Aerial picture of mountain 200 miles away. January 1930, p.96
  3. "Stevens Photographs Eclipse 5 Miles In Air. Army Expert Says That Corona Sprang Into Sight as if Switch Was Snapped". New York Times. September 1, 1932. p. 10. Retrieved 30 December 2009. "Flying at an altitude of five miles near the centre line of the eclipse zone, the aerial unit of the National Geographic Society's eclipse expedition, conducted by Captain Albert W. Stevens and Lieutenant Charles D. McAllister of the Army Air Corps, had an unobstructed view of the eclipse throughout totality. ..." 
  4. "Pictures Tell Story Of American's Stratosphere Flight" Popular Science October 1934
  5. "Gondola Steamed 73,000 Feet In Air. Captains Stevens and Anderson, Arriving in Chicago, Say They Were Mystified. Stratosphere Balloonists, With Capt. Williams, Ground Officer, Will Reach Capital Today". November 13, 1935. Retrieved 2011-05-26. "Captain Orvil A. Anderson and Captain Albert W. Stevens declared here today that they are willing to take another trip into the stratosphere at any time, and are confident that on the next endeavor they will surpass their record fourteen-mile ascent." 
  6. Lee Wells, Jr. (1935). "First High-Altitude Photo". National Geographic. 
  7. "Honored On Flight Into Stratosphere. Captains Stevens and Anderson Receive Hubbard Medal of Geographic Society. Notable Assembly in Washington Sees Photos Made 13 Miles Above the Earth". New York Times. December 12, 1935. p. 29. Retrieved 30 December 2009. "The Hubbard Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society was presented by General Pershing tonight to Captain Albert W. Stevens and Captain Orvil A. Anderson of the Army Air Corps, in recognition of their ascent into the stratosphere on Nov. 11, when they reached an official altitude of 72,395 feet. ..." 
  8. Record Balloon Flights - The Race to the Stratosphere
  9. Goliath, The first space race? The Explorer II balloon flight of 1935. Sep 22, 2006.

External links[]

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