February 9, 2017
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. George Carruthers.
Dr. George Robert Carruthers was born October 1, 1939 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is an African-American inventor, physicist, and space scientist. Born the son of a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Air Corps, Carruthers Sr., encouraged his young son’s early interest in science. By the age of 10, the young Carruthers had constructed his own personal telescope with cardboard tubing and lenses he ordered with money he earned as a paper boy. After his father’s death at the age of 12, his family relocated to Chicago, IL, and he continued to focus on building telescopes. He won several awards during science fairs for his work. After high school graduation in 1957, he entered college at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. In 1961 he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics. Staying at UI Champaign-Urbana, he earned a master’s in nuclear engineering in 1962 and his Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1964. After graduating, he began working at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Five years later, he was awarded a patent for his “Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation Especially in Short Wave Lengths.” Dr. Carruthers’ UV telescope was used during a 1970 rocket flight, which helped to provide proof of the existence of molecular hydrogen in interstellar space. In 1972, the telescope was used during the first lunar walk of the Apollo 16 mission and for the first time, scientists could examine the Earth’s atmosphere for concentrations of pollutants, and see UV images of more than 550 stars, nebulae and galaxies. In the 1980’s one of his inventions captured a UV image of Halley’s Comet. In 1991, he invented a camera that was used in the Space Shuttle Mission. In 2002, Dr. Carruthers made the move to education and began teaching at the Howard University in Washington, D.C. He currently holds the title of visiting assistant professor in the research fields of atmospheric physics and astrophysics. For his inventions that helped NASA, in 1972, he was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame for his work in science and engineering. In 2009, Carruthers was honored as a Distinguished Lecturer at the Office of Naval Research for his achievements in the field of space and science. In 2013, he was awarded the 2012 National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Barack Obama at the White House.