As the final installment of our Black History Month series, Secure Data recognizes George Carruthers and his invention of the Far Ultraviolet Electrographic Camera. This camera was the first of its kind and traveled to the moon on the Apollo 16 mission. Dr. Carruthers’ original telescope with the tripod is still on the moon today. One of the backup cameras that he restored is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
Gold-plated and weighing 50 pounds, the Ultraviolet Camera only works on the moon and provided the first pictures of Earth’s far-outer atmosphere and Earth itself, as well as stars, nebulas, galaxies and other deep-space objects. This camera allowed scientists to detect common elements in space like hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen. It also allowed for more accurate measurements of parts of the solar system for verification and provided immense amounts of new scientific data for research.
Upon receiving the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama in 2011, the award cited Dr. Carruthers’ invention as “significantly improv[ing] our understanding of space and earth science.” In addition to this honor, he also received the following awards for his invention:
How George Carruthers Changed the World
Born in Cincinnati, OH in 1939, Dr. Carruthers had a passion for inventing and a curiosity for space exploration. By the age of ten, he had mail-ordered enough parts and pieces to design his own telescope which won numerous science fair awards. In 1961, he received his bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois. By 1964, he received his master’s in Nuclear Engineering and a doctorate in Aeronautical and Astro-nautical Engineering.
The “space race” was trending news in the 1960s and Dr. Carruthers was in the right place at the right time. His UV Electrographic camera was the first observatory to be used off of Earth and influenced the creation and launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatory telescopes. In 1972, his camera produced over 200 photos on the Apollo 16 mission. In 1973, his invention obtained images of the comet “Kohoutek,” and in 1986, his camera captured an ultraviolet image of Halley’s Comet. He also invented a camera that would later be used in the Space Shuttle Mission of 1991.
With a long career of inventing and teaching others, he also created the Science & Engineers Apprentice Program which allows high school students to work with scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory during the summer. He has developed videos on Earth and Space sciences for high school students and taught courses in the subject at Howard University in Washington, DC.
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