James A. Earl was born in Omaha NE, where he graduated from Central High School in 1949. He then attended MIT where he earned BS and PHD degrees in Physics. After receiving his doctorate, he became a second lieutenant at the US Army Signal Corps Labs, where he worked on an early Vanguard weather satellite. In 1958, he went to the University of Minnesota, where he launched a series of balloon borne experiments, which led to the discovery of cosmic-ray electrons.
In 1965, Dr. Earl joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he continued his experimental and theoretical investigations of cosmic rays, which were also pursued during sabbatical leaves at the Universities of Arizona and Delaware and at the California Institute of Technology. In 1977/78, under a senior scientist award sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Dr. Earl carried out research at the University of Kiel, Germany.
At Maryland, Dr. Earl earned two more undergraduate degrees in studio art and in computer science. In retirement since 1999, he lives in Crownsville MD.