The ground state magnetic properties of manganese superoxide dismutase from Thermus thermophilus in its native and reduced forms have been determined using saturation magnetization data. Parallel EPR measurements were used to verify that commonly encountered paramagnetic impurities were at low concentration relative to the metalloprotein. The native enzyme contains high spin Mn(III) (S = 2) with D = +2.44(5) cm-1 and E/D = 0. The reduced enzyme contains high spin Mn(II) (S = 5/2) with D = +0.50(5) cm-1 and E/D = 0.027. These results are in keeping with the suggestions of several previous groups of workers concerning the permissible oxidation and spin states of the manganese, but the zero field splitting parameters are unlike those of known manganese model compounds. In addition, the extinction coefficient for the visible region absorption maximum of the native enzyme and the corresponding difference extinction coefficient (native minus reduced) have been measured using saturation magnetization data to quantitate Mn(III) present. The result, epsilon 480 = 950(80) M-1 cm-1 (delta epsilon 480 = 740(60) M-1 cm-1) agrees with the previously reported value of epsilon 480 = 910 M-1 cm-1 found by total manganese determination (Sato, S. and Nakazawa, K. (1978) J. Biochem. 83, 1165-1171). The wide variation in the reported visible region extinction coefficients of manganese superoxide dismutases from different sources is discussed.