Born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, on June 27, 1937. He is the son of former DePauw professor, Joseph P. III and Harriet Taylor Allen. He graduated from Crawfordsville High School, earned a B.A. in mathematics and physics from DePauw University, MS and a doctorate in Physics from Yale University (1961 and 1965).
Dr. Allen was a staff physicist at the Nuclear Structure Lab at Yale University from 1965-1966 and, during the period 1963 to 1967, served as a guest research associate at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. He was a nuclear physics research associate at the University of Washington when NASA selected him as one of 11 scientist-astronauts in August 1967. After serving in several administrative positions with NASA, including four years at headquarters, he returned in 1981 to Johnson Space Center where he helped support the first Space Shuttle flight.
He flew on two space missions - the first fully operational flight of the shuttle in November 1982 and the spectacular salvage mission of two $35,000,000 satellites two years later.
Allen left NASA in 1985. He served as chief executive officer of Space Industries International, Washington, D.C., and later was chairman of Veridian Corp., until he retired in 2004.
He married the former Bonnie Jo Darling of Elkhart, Indiana. Joseph P. and Bonnie Jo Allen are the parents of two children, David Christopher born September 1968 and Elizabeth Darling born May 1972. The Allen family includes many DePauw graduates: Joseph P. IV '59; Bonnie Jo Darling Allen '61; J.P. III and Harriet Taylor Allen '30, '28; David T. Allen '61; Joseph P. Allen Jr. 1897.
Finding Aid, Joseph Percival Allen, IV papers, DePauw Digital Archive; Joesph P. Allen IV Papers, DePauw Archives & Special Collections.