Black HistoryStacy M. Brown

Black History in Science: Remembering Dr. George Carruthers

He built his first telescope at the age of 10, and by age 25, George Carruthers earned a Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

Upon graduating from the University of Illinois, Carruthers started work at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

His telescope and image converter identified molecular hydrogen in space, and his ultraviolet spectrograph was used by the Apollo 16 crew in their flight to the moon.

“In March 1610, Galileo Galilei reported the first use of a telescope to view mountains and maria on the moon,” Carruthers wrote in 1972. Many reported that his project collaborator, Thornton Page, gave way to Carruthers’ brilliance.

After all, just three years earlier, Carruthers was awarded a patent for his groundbreaking “Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation Especially in Short Wave Lengths.”

Following that, the scientist’s UV telescope and image converter provided the first proof of molecular hydrogen in interstellar space.

His invention was used on Apr. 21, 1972, during the first lunar walk of the Apollo 16 mission.

It marked the first time scientists examined the Earth’s atmosphere for concentrations of pollutants and see UV images of more than 550 stars, nebulae, and galaxies.

Carruthers earned NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for his work on the project.

“On Apr. 21, 1972, the Apollo 16 commander positioned a somewhat more complex optical instrument at the Earth from the moon and obtained several remarkable photographs showing atmospheric rather than surface features,” Dr. Carruthers wrote.

One of the first and few Black scientists of his time, Carruthers died on Dec. 26, 2020, in Washington. He was 81.

Born Oct. 1, 1939, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Carruthers had three siblings. His father, George Sr., was a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Air Corps. and reportedly encouraged his son’s interest in science.

According to his biography, the elder Carruthers died when Carruthers was just 12. After his death, the family moved to Chicago, where Carruthers’ mother, Sophia, went to work for the U.S. Postal Service.

But Carruthers continued pursuing his interest in 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,” his biographers wrote.

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 a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1961, Carruthers remained at the University of Illinois, where he earned a master’s in nuclear engineering in 1962.

In 1964, he earned a Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

In a 1992 interview with the American Institute of Physics, Carruthers was asked whether it takes anything different to get an African American student interested in science instead of a white child.

“One of the things that most people agree on is just giving them lectures is not really very effective. In other words, if you say that you are going to give a lecture on space science, that is too much like what they already get in school, so it is not going to make a lasting impression on them or necessarily attract them to the field,” Carruthers stated.

“So, what we have been trying to do is give them hands-on activities, use videos and demonstrations that get across information in a way that’s more like entertainment, because certainly students are interested in seeing science fiction movies on television, they like to see ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica.’ So, what we’re trying to do is cast real science in a way that’s as attractive to them as science fiction is.”

Tags
Show More

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Washington Informer Newspaper, 3117 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, Washington, DC, 20032, http://www.washingtoninformer.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Back to top button

My News Matters to me - Washington Informer Donations

Be a Part of The Washington Informer Legacy

A donation of your choice empowers our journalists to continue the work to better inform, educate and empower you through technology and resources that you use.

Click Here Today to Support Black Press and be a part of the Legacy!

Subscribe today for free and be the first to have news and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Select list(s) to subscribe to


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Washington Informer Newspaper, 3117 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, Washington, DC, 20032, http://www.washingtoninformer.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact
Close

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker