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  • From the Laboratory to the Moon: the Life of George R. Carruthers

From the Laboratory to the Moon: the Life of George R. Carruthers

  • September 15, 2022
  • 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
  • In person at the Roper Mountain Mountain Observatory as well as virtually on Zoom. Link to join the meeting will be sent when you register for the event. Links will be on the bottom of your confirmation email.
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From the Laboratory to the Moon: the Life of George R. Carruthers


George Carruthers designed and built the first astronomical telescope that observed the universe from another world: our Earth's Moon. Working at the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C., Carruthers created a highly sophisticated and versatile far-ultraviolet camera that could take direct images of the universe, as well as spectroscopically analyze its constituents. Born in Cincinnati on October 1, 1939 the eldest son of an inventive civil engineer, Carruthers arrived at NRL in 1964 armed with a Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Illinois. He had been building and using telescopes since childhood and was mentored in classes at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Here I recount the path Carruthers took that brought him to NRL to develop and perfect a wide range of ultraviolet detectors for use both in astronomy and by the Department of Defense. His devices flew on sounding rockets, Apollo, then Skylab, and finally on Shuttle. In his later years, Carruthers became an avid mentor, inspiring inner-city Washington DC school children to seek out careers in his dual worlds of science and engineering.


Dr. David DeVorkin is senior curator emeritus, history of astronomy and the space sciences at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. DeVorkin's research and collections center on the origins and development of modern astrophysics and the space sciences during the 20th Century. He has curated several major exhibitions in the space sciences and established the Museum's ``Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory'' and related outreach programming in astronomy education. He has been in contact with George Carruthers since the early 1990s recording his life and work, restoring his lunar camera, and hosting a few of his many appearances at the Museum. He is presently writing a full life biography of Carruthers, highlighting his development of highly sensitive "electronographic" cameras that he incorporated into rocket and satellite payloads, and sent to the Moon on Apollo 16. DeVorkin is the author/editor/compiler of some 20 books and more than 125 scholarly and popular articles. He holds a PhD in the history of astronomy from the University of Leicester and an MPhil in astronomy from Yale University.

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