George Carruthers Black Scientist

George Carruthers with UV Telescope and Image Converter

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Born October 1, 1939, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the eldest of George and Sophia Carruthers’ four children. George Carruthers, Sr. was a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Air Corps, and encouraged his son’s early interests in science. By the age of 10, the young Carruthers had constructed his own telescope with cardboard tubing and mail-order lenses he bought with money he earned as a delivery boy.

Carruthers’ father died when the boy was only 12. After his death, the family moved to Chicago, where Sophia went to work for the U.S. Postal Service. Despite the emotional setback, Carruthers continued pursuing science. As one of only a handful of African-Americans competing in Chicago’s high school science fairs, he won three awards, including first prize for a telescope that he designed and built.

In 1957, Carruthers graduated from Chicago’s Englewood High School and entered the engineering program at the University of Illinois’ Champaign-Urbana campus. While an undergraduate, Carruthers focused on aerospace engineering and astronomy. After earning his bachelor’s degree in physics in 1961, Carruthers stayed on at the University of Illinois, earning his master’s in nuclear engineering in 1962, and his Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1964.

In 1964, he went to work for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow. Two years later he became a full-time research physicist at the NRL’s E. O. Hurlburt Center for Space Research.

On November 11, 1969, Carruthers was awarded a patent for his “Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation Especially in Short Wave Lengths.” During a 1970 rocket flight, Carruthers’s UV telescope and image converter provided the first proof of the existence of molecular hydrogen in interstellar space. Carruther’s invention was used on April 21, 1972, during the first lunar walk of the Apollo 16 mission. For the first time, scientists were able to examine the Earth’s atmosphere for concentrations of pollutants, and see UV images of more than 550 stars, nebulae, and galaxies. Carruthers was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for his work on the project.

In the 1980s, one of Carruthers’ inventions captured an ultraviolet image of Halley’s Comet. In 1991, he invented a camera that was used in the Space Shuttle Mission.

Carruthers also extends his efforts to education. He helped create a program called the Science & Engineers Apprentice Program, which gave high school students the opportunity to work at the Naval Research Laboratory. In 1996 and 1997 he taught a course in Earth and Space Science for D.C. Public Schools Science teachers. Then, in 2002, Carruthers began teaching a course on Earth and Space Science at Howard University.

George Carruthers

George Carruthers on right, NRL/NASA Project Manager on left

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5 responses »

  1. Raimo says:

    A school building was fenced off with barbed wire in Espoo, Finland in 1908 (see the picture in the link). Swedes fenced off school buildings with barbed wire, in order to ban children the access to a school.

    The Swedish government was responsible for the most iron ore the Nazis received. Kiruna-Gällivare ore fields in Northern Sweden were all important to Nazi Germany.

    These massive deliveries of iron ore and military facilities from Sweden to Nazi Germany lengthened World War II. Casualties of the war have been estimated at 20 million killed in Europe. How many of them died due to Sweden’s material support to Nazi Germany, is not known.

  2. Nyija Butler says:

    As people are capable of so much more than what is expected of us. Some cases, we need others to show us the extent of our self-development. Others times we need people as role models to motivate ourselves. I wonder what was driving Sophia. He set the bar high, but as we as a people progress, we’ll be able to set higher goals.

  3. Victoria Murray says:

    George Carruthers’s son is one of the few people that value education and not to many people here value that. Also the fact that George Carruthers was a good role model for his son he showed him the way to knowledge and success. Not to many people have that or even have parents that would encourage there kids to do something that they love to do. Time has changed so much since that time because now a days things aren’t given through hard work. This boy made it through a lot of hard work and have supportive parent.

  4. Lyke Teshome says:

    I really like this story because, he is a life representation as to something that I would like to achieve. I can see a lot of what I want to be in this story. Even losing his father at 12, that would probably traumatize me. His story is just another great example of how much drive and determination can bring about great success in the field of engineering. I just feel that to become someone like George Carruthers, it’s easy to forget how hard you need to work in today’s society with so many distractions, Which shows that people today just needs to show how bad they want success

  5. […] George Carruthers with UV Telescope and Image Converter […]

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