George Carruthers Collection

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 1, 1939, George Carruthers arrived at US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in 1964 with a Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Illinois. Carruthers was assigned to Talbot Chubb's upper air physics branch and joined an experimental rocket astronomy team to search for molecular hydrogen in space. This required sensitive detectors for the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum and Carruthers developed an electronographic camera that amplified images electronically for recording on photographic film. Guided by Chubb and mentored by Julian Holmes at NRL, Carruthers devised especially efficient and reliable electronographic cameras and flew them on rockets in the late 1960s. In 1969, Carruthers responded to an open National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) "announcement of opportunity" to create experiments for follow-on Apollo flights. By the time NASA gave them approval, Carruthers and his NRL team had less than two years to design and build the first astronomical telescope that observed the universe from the Moon. Compact, highly sensitive, lightweight, and usable by Apollo 16 astronauts on the lunar surface, his highly sophisticated and versatile telescope could take direct images of the universe, as well as analyze its constituents. Carruthers remained at NRL for the rest of his career, continuing to develop and perfect a wide range of electronographic ultraviolet detectors for use both in astronomy and by the Department of Defense. After sounding rockets and Apollo, his devices flew on Skylab, and later on the Space Shuttle. In his later years, Carruthers became an avid mentor, inspiring local Washington DC school children to get practical experience in science and engineering.