The National Society of Black Physicists has released a statement on the death of Dr. George Carruthers. A staunch supporter of the organization, the award-winning astrophysicist passed away on December 26.
“He will be remembered as an amazing scientist, engineer, professor, and mentor,” the National Society of Black Physicists said. “Dr. Carruthers is considered the inventor of the ultraviolet camera/spectrograph. He also invented the camera that took the first images of space. His work has been instrumental in the fields of astrophysics. Dr. Carruthers was given many awards for his work including a National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama.
Dr. Carruthers was a visiting assistant professor in the research fields of atmospheric physics and astrophysics at Howard University teaching and mentoring future generations of Black physicists. Dr. Carruthers was an NSBP fellow and a staunch supporter of this organization. His passing is a tremendous loss to the physics community and to NSBP. Details concerning his memorial are forthcoming.”
Astrophysicist George Carruthers was born in 1939. He developed an ultraviolet spectrograph, launched on a sounding rocket in 1970, that confirmed the existence of interstellar hydrogen, and a similar device that was placed on the moon by Apollo 16.
The Apollo 16 mission delivered the Far Ultraviolet Spectrograph designed by Dr. Carruthers to the moon. It is the small object behind astronaut John Young in this photo taken at the Descartes landing site. Image: NASA / Charles Duke, Jr. pic.twitter.com/PERR0sp0fu — Robert McNees (@mcnees) October 1, 2018
When the trailblazing physicist won the Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) for technical contribution in 1987, Dr. Carruthers was one of 40 Black scientists and engineers working at the Naval Research Laboratory.
In his US Black Engineer magazine citation by the BEYA selection committee, Carruthers was praised for technical contributions to the U.S. Navy and the defense department’s space program, and his development of man’s first moon-based space observatory, which was carried aloft by the Apollo 16 astronauts and placed on the moon.
His experiment, a Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph, permitted humans to observe the terrestrial upper atmosphere from the lunar surface for the first time and to observe celestial objects and the interplanetary medium.
NASA’s Skylab 4 used the Carruthers-developed far-ultraviolet camera to photograph two NASA-sponsored rockets flown from the White Sands Missile Range to obtain invisible images of Comet Halley. These rockets, along with two others flown at the same time, were among only a few U.S.-sponsored space experiments to collect data on the comet.
Carruthers earned his bachelor’s in aeronautical engineering, a master’s in nuclear engineering, and a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering, all from the University of Illinois. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he moved to Chicago with his family when he was 12. He was an active member of the National Technical Association (NTA)