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Dr. George R. Carruthers to Receive the ASP’s Arthur B.C. Walker II Award

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) is proud to award the 2017 Arthur B.C. Walker II Award, for outstanding achievement in astronomy and education by an African American scientist, to Dr. George Carruthers, renowned astrophysicist, inventor and 2012 National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipient.

George Carruthers

Credit: Len DePas

Dr. George R. Carruthers, astrophysicist, pioneer in the use of ultraviolet spectroscopy to study the universe, and inventor who developed the first moon-based observatory for the Apollo 16 mission, is the recipient of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Arthur B.C. Walker II Award. The Arthur B.C. Walker II Award recognizes outstanding achievement by an African American in astronomy and for actively promoting diversity in science. Dr. Carruthers, recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama in 2012, will receive the Walker award on October 28, 2017 during the ASP’s Annual Award Gala in Burlingame, California.

About Dr. George R. Carruthers

George Carruthers with spectrograph

Dr. George Carruthers of the Naval Research Laboratory is shown with a far-ultraviloet spectograph which he developed for astronomical observations from sounding rockets. This instrument made the first detection of interstellar molecular hydrogen in a March 1970 rocket flight. Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

George Robert Carruthers (born October 1, 1939) began his career working for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. where his work focused on ultraviolet astronomy.

In 1969, Dr. Carruthers received a patent for an instrument designed to detect short wavelength electromagnetic radiation. His invention, a 50-pound, gold-plated ultraviolet telescope was used during Apollo 16, the NASA mission landing the first moon-based space observatory.  Over 200 images of Earth’s atmosphere, the Milky Way, and deep space were collected from this groundbreaking lunar observatory.  The instrument was also the first to detect molecular hydrogen in outer space. When Halley’s Comet returned in Earth’s skies in 1986, one of Carruthers’ instruments captured an ultraviolet image of it.  Carruthers also invented a camera used by the NASA Space Shuttle.

In the 1980s, Dr. Carruthers spearheaded a program allowing high school students to spend a summer working with scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (Science & Engineers Apprentice Program).

Dr. Carruthers has received a number of prestigious awards and honors.  He is the recipient of the Arthur S. Flemming Award (for outstanding achievement federal government employees, the American Astronomical Society‘s Helen B. Warner Prize (for significant contributions to observational or theoretical astronomy), the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal from NASA, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Carruthers was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his contributions to aeronautical engineering.

About Dr. Arthur B.C. Walker II

Arthur B.C. Walker II (1936 – 2001), Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University, was a renowned and highly respected aerospace engineer and solar physicist.  While at Stanford, Arthur was an active member of the Center for Space Science and Astrophysics and chaired the Astronomy Program from 1977 until 1980.  His most significant contribution to academic life at Stanford was mentoring under-represented graduate students in science, namely women and African-Americans. Among these students was Sally Ride, the first female U.S. astronaut.  He was also a leader of the African American community at Stanford and the longest serving member of the advisory committee for the Afro-American studies program. He served as a role model for many of the young African-American assistant professors including Condoleezza Rice. NASA recognized his lifetime of service during a combined meeting of the National Conference for Black Students and the National Society of Black Physicists in 2001. Dr. Walker’s devotion to science and service encouraged and promoted African Americans to enter physics as a profession at all levels.

About the Arthur B.C. Walker II Award

The ASP’s Arthur B.C. Walker II Award has been established to honor an outstanding scientist whose research and educational efforts substantially contributes to astronomy and who has (1) demonstrated a substantial commitment to mentoring students from underrepresented groups pursuing degrees in astronomy and/or (2) been instrumental in creating or supporting innovative and successful STEM programs designed to support underrepresented students or their teachers.

The Arthur B.C. Walker II Award also includes an “Arthur B.C. Walker II Scholarship” which the recipient gives to a student of their choice.  In addition, and perhaps even more important than the financial benefit, the prestigious scholarship from the ASP will help support the student’s academic and career goals.

The Arthur B.C. Walker II Award was established in 2016 and the inaugural recipient was Katherine Johnson, renowned NASA mathematician space scientist.

About the ASP

The ASP is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to use astronomy to increase the understanding and appreciation of science and to advance science and science literacy. The ASP connects scientists, educators, amateur astronomers and the public together to learn about astronomical research, improve astronomy education, and share resources that engage learners of all kinds in the excitement and adventure of scientific discovery. Current ASP programs and initiatives support college faculty, K-12 science teachers, amateur astronomy clubs, science museums, libraries, park rangers, and Girl Scouts to name a few.

Through its annual awards, ASP recognizes achievement in research, technology, education, and public outreach. The awards include the ASP’s highest honor, the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal awarded since 1898 for a lifetime of outstanding research in astronomy. The Bruce Medal has gone to some of the greatest astronomers of the past century, including Arthur Eddington, Edwin P. Hubble, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, and Vera Rubin. The ASP also presents the Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. Awardees include Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and the Hubble Heritage Project.