Black History: Special Delivery!!
George Carruthers (1939 – ) was born in Cincinnati, OH. His father was a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Air Corp. He was the oldest of four children. His father encouraged his interest in science. At the age of 10, Carruthers built his first telescope with cardboard tubing and a mail-order lens with money he earned as a delivery boy. Carruthers was not an especially strong student in math and physics as a child. Still he won awards at several science competitions.
His father died when he was 12 years old. Carruther’s mother, relocated the family to her hometown of Chicago, IL where she began working for the U.S. Postal Service. Carruthers graduated from Englewood High School and then enrolled in the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. There he earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1961, a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1962 and a doctorate in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1964. He then accepted a position with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) as a Research Physicist in 1964. At NRL, his work focused on far ultraviolet astronomy, which entailed observing the Earth’s upper atmosphere. In 1966, Carruthers became a research assistant at the NRL’s E.O. Hulburt Center for Space Research. There he researched ways to create visual images as a way to better understand the physical make up of deep space.
Carruthers worked to develop an apparatus that could analyze ultraviolet radiation. In 1969, he obtained a patent for his invention the, “Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation Especially In Short Wave Lengths”. This invention detected electromagnetic radiation in short wave lengths. Using this invention, Carruthers developed the first moon-based space observatory. This ultraviolet camera was positioned on the moon’s surface. It permitted researchers to study atmospheric pollutants on earth. In addition to his work on the Apollo 16 space mission, Carruthers was also the principal investigator for many NASA and Department of Defense space instruments. With one of these instruments, Carruthers was able to capture images of Halley’s Comet. Carruthers also worked with the Air Force on the ARGOS space mission, capturing an image of a Leonid shower meteor that was entering the earth’s atmosphere.
Carruthers is a true trailblazer and role model for excellence in a STEM related field.