Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In Praise of: George Carruthers

Judging by his bio at the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, George Carruthers is one those rare people who find a vocation at an early age, stick with it, and achieved great success.

Dr. Carruthers was born in Cincinnati and moved to Chicago's South Side when he was 12. He built his first telescope when he was 10; he enjoyed reading about science and visiting local museums throughout his youth.

At the University of Illinois, Dr. Carruthers received a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering, a masters in Nuclear Engineering, and a doctorate in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. In 1964 he began his long career with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., an agency whose post-war activities included pioneering space research.

It was in this capacity that Dr. Carruthers filed and was granted patent number 3,478,216 for an Image Converter for Detecting Electro-Magnetic Radiation Especially in Short Wavelengths. The patented technology was the basis for a camera used on the Apollo 16 mission to record the Earth's hydrogen atmosphere. The camera allowed scientists to study part of the Earth's atmosphere that extends too far out for vessels in Earth's orbit to study. In his own words:
"What we had proposed to do was set up a camera on the surface of the moon to observe the Earth and study its hydrogen atmosphere, which extends out to many thousands of miles. Even the space station and the shuttle can't get far enough away to really study the higher atmosphere."
Read more about Dr. Carruthers online at the National Inventors Hall of Fame and in these features from MIT and University of Buffalo.

If you're up for visiting the Main Library, check out Black Inventors from Africa to America by C.R. Gibbs, the book I consulted for much of the information in this post. The book can be found in the African American Center, which is a terrific collection of in-library-use materials that serves as an introduction to African American and African history and culture throughout the Black Diaspora.

The African American Center has recently launched a top-notch blog called Habari Gani that I highly recommend. Have a look at http://habariganisfpl.blogspot.com/.

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