Although international scientific cooperation - particularly in meteorology - was established previous to the first International Polar Year, the IPY-1 (1882-83) is considered to be the first revolutionary step towards an extensive international cooperation in the polar areas for the benefit of science rather than national prestige and territorial gain. This was followed by IPY-2 (1932-33) and IPY-3 - actually the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) - before the crowning effort of IPY-4 (2007-08). The history of these years is recounted here and explains the political, economic, technical and scientific conditions and expectations that laid the basis for each IPY and which gradually expanded both the scope and extent of our understanding of the complexities in polar regions

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