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William Jackson

Chemist and academic administrator William M. Jackson was born on September 24, 1936 in Birmingham, Alabama. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from Morehouse College in 1956 and Catholic University of America, CUA in 1961, respectively. His expertise is in photochemistry, lasers chemistry, and astrochemistry.

Jackson has been a research scientist in industry at Martin Co (now Lockheed-Martin) and the government at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). He has been an academician at the University of Pittsburgh (1969-1970), Howard University (1974-1985), and the University of California, Davis (UCD). He joined the faculty at UCD as a chemistry professor in 1985. He then became a distinguished professor in 1998, and chair of the chemistry department from 2000 to 2005. He was awarded millions of dollars in research and education grants and has taught and mentored under representative minority students at Howard University and UCD. Under his direction, the minority student population of the UCD chemistry graduate students increased. He continues to do research, as well as, recruiting and mentoring minority students in chemistry, even though he is officially retired.

In the field of astrochemistry, Jackson observed comets with both ground-based and satellite telescopes and used laboratory and theoretical studies to explain how the radicals observed in comets are formed. He led the team that made the first satellite (IUE) telescope cometary observation. His laboratory developed tunable dye lasers to detect and determine the properties of free radicals formed during the photodissociation of stable molecules. He continued to use lasers in the laboratory to map out the excited states of small molecules important in comets, planetary atmospheres, and the interstellar medium decompose into reactive atoms and radicals and are important in the chemistry of these astronomical bodies. Jackson published over 176 scientific papers, has a United States patent, and has edited two books.

Jackson is the recipient of many awards from universities and scientific organizations. They include the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) Percy Julian Award (1986), a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1989), the CUA alumni award for scientific achievements (1991), the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Award (1996), the Morehouse College Bennie Trail Blazer award (2011) and election as a Fellow in the American Physical Society (1995), in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2004) in, and American Chemical Society (2010). He is one of the six founders of NOBCChE; and in 1996, the Planetary Society named asteroid 1081 EE37 as (4322) Billjackson in his honor for contributions to planetary science.

William M. Jackson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 6, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.212

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/6/2012 |and| 12/2/2017

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Middle Name

M

Occupation
Schools

Catholic University of America

Morehouse College

Central High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Birmingham

HM ID

JAC32

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

9/24/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Davis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Astrophysicist William Jackson (1936 - ) was one of the founders of NOBCChE and a fellow of the APS, ACS, and AAAS. He also had an asteroid named in his honor.

Employment

University of California, Davis

University of Pittsburgh

Howard University

Diamond Ordinance Fuse Laboratory

Martin Marietta Corporation

National Bureau of Standards (NBS)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center

University of California Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory

National Taiwan University

Goddard Space Flight Center

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Jackson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Jackson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Jackson describes his mother's family baclground

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Jackson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Jackson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Jackson describes his father's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Jackson describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Jackson talks about his parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Jackson describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Jackson describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Jackson describes the sights, smells, and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Jackson describes the racial climate of Birmingham, Alabama in his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Jackson talks about his home on Dynamite Hill

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Jackson describes the difference between "black" and "colored"

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Jackson describes his experience with polio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Jackson describes his involvement in sports

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Jackson describes his recovery from polio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Jackson describes his experience at Immaculate Catholic School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Jackson talks about his decision to attend Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Jackson describes his experience at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Jackson describes his social life at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Jackson talks about Dr. Benjamin Mays

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Jackson talks about Omega Psi Phi Fraternity

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Jackson talks about those that influenced him

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Jackson talks about his decision to attend the Catholic University of America

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Jackson describes his influences at the Catholic University of America

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Jackson talks about meeting is wife

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - William Jackson describes his research

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Jackson talks about completing his Ph.D. degree

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Jackson describes his work at the Martin-Marietta Company and the National Bureau of Standards

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Jackson describes his work at the Goddard Space Flight Center

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Jackson describes the faculty at Howard University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Jackson describes his work at the University of Pittsburgh

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Jackson describes his inspiration for building his laser

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William Jackson describes his work at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - William Jackson describes his decision to work at the University of California, Davis

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - William Jackson describes his work at the University of California and abroad

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - William Jackson talks about efforts to produce more minority Ph.D.s in science (part 1)

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - William Jackson talks about efforts to produce more minority Ph.D.'s in science (part 2)

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - William Jackson talks about his work as Chair of the Chemistry Department at University of California, Davis

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - William Jackson describes his early interest in chemistry, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - William Jackson describes his early interest in chemistry, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - William Jackson talks about his decision to become a physical chemist

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - William Jackson describes how he came to attend Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - William Jackson talks about his research assistant position at Catholic University of America

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - William Jackson remembers his classmates at Catholic University of America

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - William Jackson talks about his Ph.D. work at the National Bureau of Standards, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - William Jackson talks about his Ph.D. work at the National Bureau of Standards, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - William Jackson talks about the instruments he used in his Ph.D. work

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - William Jackson describes the history of instruments and processes in chemistry

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - William Jackson describes his work at Martin Marietta Corporation

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - William Jackson describes his reasons for leaving Martin Marietta Corporation, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - William Jackson describes his reasons for leaving Martin Marietta Corporation, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - William Jackson recalls his reasons for returning to the National Bureau of Standards

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - William Jackson describes his research at the National Bureau of Standards

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - William Jackson remembers his coworkers at the National Bureau of Standards

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - William Jackson describes his experiences with racial discrimination at Martin Marietta Corporation

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - William Jackson talks about the role of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - William Jackson talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - William Jackson recalls his reasons for leaving the Goddard Space Flight Center

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - William Jackson describes his role at the Goddard Space Flight Center, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - William Jackson describes his role at the Goddard Space Flight Center, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - William Jackson talks about his research on photodissociation at the Goddard Space Flight Center

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - William Jackson talks about his research of free radicals using tunable light sources

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - William Jackson talks about the applications of his work in free radicals

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - William Jackson remembers the formation of NOBCChE

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - William Jackson talks about the creation of NOBCChE, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - William Jackson talks about the creation of NOBCChE, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - William Jackson describes the NOBCChE's Minority Resource Centers for Science and Engineering, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - William Jackson describes the NOBCChE's Minority Resource Centers for Science and Engineering, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - William Jackson talks about the early years of the Minority Resource Centers for Science and Engineering

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - William Jackson talks about women in the sciences

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - William Jackson remembers the faculty and staff of the Howard University Department of Chemistry

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - William Jackson talks about the funding of the Howard University Department of Chemistry

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - William Jackson remembers his professorship at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - William Jackson describes his sabbatical at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Erlangen, Germany

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - William Jackson recalls his reasons for coming to the University of California, Davis, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - William Jackson recalls his reasons for coming to the University of California, Davis, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - William Jackson talks about his rank of professorship at the University of California, Davis

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - William Jackson describes his positions at the University of California, Davis

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - William Jackson talks about the lack of African American professors at the University of California, Davis

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - William Jackson describes his role as chair of the chemistry department at the University of California, Davis

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - William Jackson talks about his research at the University of California, Davis

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - William Jackson describes his research in surface chemistry

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - William Jackson talks about the implications of his research on climate change

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - William Jackson talks about the effect of politics on the STEM industries

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - William Jackson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - William Jackson remembers the Ph.D. students he taught

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - William Jackson describes the role of a Ph.D. mentor and advisor

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - William Jackson reflects upon his life

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - William Jackson shares his advice for aspiring chemists

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
William Jackson describes his experience at Morehouse College
William Jackson describes his work at the Goddard Space Flight Center
Transcript
Okay, alright. So, okay, Morehouse. So, now was it much more challenging at Morehouse than it was in high school?$$I didn't get all A's, so yeah. Yeah, I mean, yeah, it was.$$Okay. Now, at Morehouse there was the great Dr. Henry McBay that everybody talks about.$$Right.$$We hear his name over and over again in these interviews.$$Right.$$What was your relationship like with Dr. McBay? What was he like?$$I did not take chemistry in high school, and I told you, my stepfather was a dentist. School started on a Monday, so the way I was going to get to Morehouse, he had to drive me up there. And so, he was going to drive me up there on, he wanted to leave on Saturday morning. And Mobile is about 250 miles from Atlanta, and then there were no interstate highways in those days, 1952. So, Harry Truman was president, and the interstate didn't come in until Eisenhower was elected. And he started it. So, he wanted to drive up that weekend. I think we started, and he had to come back so he wouldn't have to close his practice for the half a day on Saturday. So, we left, and I got there a couple days earlier than most of the freshmen, than all of the freshmen, in fact. It was early enough for me to talk to the upper classmen who were going to be assigned to work with the freshmen when they got there. In fact, when the other freshmen got there, they thought I was an upper classman. But in talking to the upper classmen, they said, "Well, what are you going to major in?" I said, "I'm going to major in math." They said, "Well, that's good. Don't take chemistry, because McBay is going to flunk you." At that point in my life, I didn't, you know, I was, I didn't believe that. And I didn't, I took it as a challenge, you know. I enrolled in general chemistry. Fortunately, I got a C the first semester and a B the second semester. But I got hooked. I liked the way, I mean, he made it interesting. He was a very good lecturer. He was very difficult, but I thought he was very fair. He didn't give you anything, but he didn't take anything away from you.$$So, you didn't start off setting the world on fire in chemistry. You got a C. Now, you're like fourteen years old, or fifteen?$$Fifteen.$$Fifteen, okay.$$My son did better in chemistry than I did.$$Okay.$$But, yeah, I got a C, but that's okay. I mean, you asked me my relationship with him. After I finished college, and got finished with graduate school, and started publishing papers, we had a very good relationship. When I finished Morehouse, he wanted me to stay at Atlanta University and get a master's degree. And I didn't see any reason why I should do that, even though my grades weren't that good. So, I had been accepted to Northwestern [Northwestern University] and Purdue [Purdue University], but couldn't go because I didn't have any money to go, and they didn't give me any assistantship. So, I moved up to Washington, D.C. [District of Columbia] because I had a cousin there, who said, "Well, with your degree in chemistry you can get a job in the federal government." So, I went around all that summer looking for jobs in the federal government. But in the process, I knew I wanted to go into physical chemistry. And I kept asking, well what's the best school for physical chemistry? And they kept saying Catholic University, which was about a mile from where I was staying with my cousin.$$I want to stop this right here and then go back. We skipped the whole Morehouse experience, which we need to get to before we get you to graduate school. And Morehouse, I mean, you were telling me when we were walking around the campus earlier with you, your roommate was Maynard Jackson, right?$$Yeah, my freshman roommate.$$Your freshman roommate. And there was another student there that people might know, another one was Charles Brown, right?$$Right.$$Who's a Reverend. You didn't have any idea that he was going to be a Reverend at the time?$$No. Let's see. There were a lot of people there. I mean there was Charles Brown, there was Maynard Jackson, there was Till, who only stayed two years. After the first two years he went back to Texas and got his undergraduate degree and became a neurosurgeon, and teaches at Howard University Medical School.$$What's his name?$$Till, T-I-L-L.$$Okay.$$Aaron Jackson was a chemistry major. He died recently, but was a urologist. He taught at Howard University. Major Owens, who was and still is a Congressman from New York. And that's only a small number of the ones that come to my mind right now.$$Now, you weren't the only early admitted student, right? So, there were other--$$One, everyone that I named was an early admitted student. There were about twenty five or thirty of us. Most of them were really smart. And a guy from Chicago by the name of Joe Carl, I remember him. I can't remember all the people in the class at this stage. But it was a pretty--in fact, there are people who say we were the most famous class at Morehouse. There were others who tried to rival us, but given the fact that out of seventy five students, the accomplishments of that class were outstanding.$$Okay. So, but there were about thirty early admitted students?$$Right. But the program continued after that. Walter Massey, who was president of Morehouse, was a couple years later. So, I mean, there were--so there were, it was a pretty distinguished class.$Now this is, you're at Goddard's Space Flight Center at the beginning of, and I guess the most publicized era for U.S. space flight?$$That's right. So I mean, it was, Goddard, NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] was getting money at that time. There were a couple of things that I did that you talked about. You asked me about astrochemistry. It was there that I started using my knowledge of chemistry and applying it to comets, which is what I was hired to do, and trying to understand the physical and chemical processes occurring in comets, and why they look the way the look, what they're made of. And so I started working on problems like that.$$How did you study the comet, I mean did you study the names of comets, or--$$Well, primarily, comets are studied by spectroscopic observation. You look at, use telescopes and measure the spectra. And spectra are the signatures for molecules in comets. And from the ground we can see signatures of free radicals like C-N, O-H, just barely. CN-OH, C-2, C-3 and N-H. That's the first clue. There's other things. You could just look at the orbits and see how the orbits change in periodic comets. And a famous scientist by the name of Fred Whipple figured out that when they evaporate material as they heat up going around the sun, that material, when you go to have a force go in one direction, it exerts in the equal and opposite direction, remembering the second law of motion. So, that slight motion changes the orbit, and if you measure it precisely, you can determine how much force was involved. And he wrote a really brilliant paper, where he used that information, and he came up with what we call the icy nucleus model. The comets are made up of frozen water with various materials inside, and when the water evaporates, it pushes back on the comet, and that's what causes this chain to orbit. And so, you look at that and you try to figure out well, then, how do free radicals come about? And we showed that they come about and that you can make sense out of it by photo association. That means light from the sun. Molecules absorb radiation from the sun and break apart. For example, water, H20, absorbs light and breaks apart H plus O-H, and we see the O-H. HCN breaks apart and gives you C-N plus H, and so forth and so on. So, I worked on those kinds of problems. I wrote a, NASA was setting up a telescope called the IUE telescope. They did ask for an ultraviolet exploratory telescope. And I used, I proposed that we could use their telescope to study the ultra violet emissions spectrum above the atmosphere of the earth, so that you could see things that you could not see from the earth.$$Now this is, correct me if I'm wrong. This is about 1974?$$The proposal was written to use a telescope, was written before that, because it takes five years to send up a satellite.$$Okay. You started, got it in '64' [1964].$$Right.$$That's ten ten years. That was in '74' [1974].$$'74' [1974]. We actually made the observations in '74' [1974], '75' [1975]. But I wrote, I was the principal investigator on the observations.$$And this is the first team to use the ultra violet explorer.$$Explorer, that's right. And the interesting thing, to me, was the astronomers who designed the telescope said we wouldn't get a big enough signal from a comet to be able to use it. But I showed that you, in fact, could do that. Because I showed them a piece of paper, and we actually made the first observations. The signal was about what I had predicted it was going to be. So, being a chemist, it felt good to prove the astronomers wrong.$$Okay. So--$$That telescope went on to make some of the most significant observations of comets.$$Okay.$$And the newer versions of the HST telescope and so forth is still making significant observations of comets.

Gibor Basri

Astrophysicist and physics professor Gibor Basri was born on May 3, 1951 to Saul and Phyllis Basri in New York City, New York. His father was Jewish and a physics professor at Colorado State University while his mother, who was Jamaican, taught dance. Basri grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado with his younger brother, David, though the family also lived in Myanmar and Sri Lanka when his father was on Fulbright fellowships. Even as a child, Basri had a telescope to look at the sky and in eighth grade wrote a report on being an astronomer. Basri attended Fort Collins High School before attending Stanford University, where he followed in his father’s footsteps, receiving his B.S. degree in physics in 1973. He then merged his interest in astronomy with his background in physics, obtaining his Ph.D. degree in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1979.

Basri first joined the University of California at Berkeley faculty under a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral fellowship. He received tenure in 1988 and was named a full professor in 1994. His research has focused on star formation and stellar activity. Basri is considered a pioneer and expert in brown dwarfs, best known for his work with the 10-meter Keck Telescope which helped his team confirm the existence of brown dwarfs in 1995. From 2006 to 2007, Basri served as the acting chair for the Astronomy Department at the University of California Berkeley, and in 2007, he was named Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion at Berkeley by Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau.

In 1997, Basri was awarded a Miller Research Professorship. He has written nearly 200 publications with over 7,000 citations attached to his work. In 2000, he was named a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer and in 2001, Basri became co-investigator of the Kepler mission, selected by NASA as a discovery mission to find extra solar terrestrial planets. With an interest in science and technology education, Basri received the Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in 2006 and serves on the board of the Chabot Space and Science Center as well as the “I Have a Dream, Oakland” Foundation.

Basri lives in California with his wife, Jessica, and their son, Jacob Basri.

Basri was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 9, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.005

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

3/9/2011

Last Name

Basri

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

University of Colorado Boulder

Stanford University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Gibor

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

BAS03

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Live Long And Prosper.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

5/3/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/Berkeley

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spicy Ethnic Food

Short Description

Physics professor and astrophysicist Gibor Basri (1951 - ) was one of the first astrophysicists to discover brown dwarfs, stars without sufficient mass to have a stable brightness and that cool to planetary temperatures, in 1998. In 2007, he was named the first vice chancellor for equity and inclusion at the University of California, Berkeley.

Employment

University of California

University of California, Berkeley

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Forest Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gibor Basri's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gibor Basri shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gibor Basri talks about his mother's family background from Jamaica

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gibor Basri talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gibor Basri describes his father's family background and Jewish lineage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gibor Basri talks about his father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gibor Basri recalls the story of how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gibor Basri recalls his move from New York to Colorado

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gibor Basri recalls growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gibor Basri details his family's voyage to Burma during childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Gibor Basri recounts his elementary school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gibor Basri discusses his parents' thoughts on racial identity

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gibor Basri discusses his Jewish identitiy

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gibor Basri talks about returning to Fort Collins, Colorado from Burma

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gibor Basri talks about developing an interest in astronomy as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gibor Basri recalls his father's work in physics

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gibor Basri talks about the influence of Judaism in his family

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gibor Basri describes his elementary school experience in Fort Collins

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gibor Basri discusses his extracurricular interests during school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gibor Basri recalls his high school experience abroad in Tehran, Iran and Ceylon

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gibor Basri remembers his high school experience in Ceylon [later called Sri Lanka]

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gibor Basri relates the differences between he and his brother

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gibor Basri recalls meeting Arthur C. Clarke

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gibor Basri discusses science fiction films

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gibor Basri describes his high school experience in Fort Collins, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gibor Basri details his summer of research after high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gibor Basri recalls how race influenced his transition to college

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gibor Basri recalls his decision to attend Stanford University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gibor Basri discusses space exploration versus research

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gibor Basri talks about being an astrophysicist versus an astronaut

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gibor Basri talks about his peers and faculty at Stanford University that influenced him

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gibor Basri remembers courses he took at Stanford University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gibor Basri discusses nuclear waste

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gibor Basri talks about his physics projects at Stanford University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gibor Basri explains his decision to go to graduate school

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gibor Basri talks about his brother's education

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gibor Basri recalls meeting his thesis advisor and his wife at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gibor Basri discusses his first publications during graduate school at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Gibor Basri talks about green flashes of the sun

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Gibor Basri talks about his dissertation work on supergiant chromospheres

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Gibor Basri recounts changing research fields to study stellar astronomy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gibor Basri talks about using the International Ultraviolet Explorer Satellite

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gibor Basri explains the difference between astrology and astronomy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gibor Basri explains how astronomers study stars

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gibor Basri explains the difference between images of stars and their reality

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gibor Basri shares the story of how he joined the physics department at University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gibor Basri talks about the serendipity of career choices

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gibor Basri discusses the importance of connections within the astronomy world

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gibor Basri recalls the courses that he taught at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gibor Basri discusses the philosophical nature of time including time travel

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gibor Basri discusses time travel and the universe, part 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gibor Basri talks about astronomy in cinema and popular culture

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gibor Basri recalls how he became involved in studying brown dwarfs

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Gibor Basri details his study of very young, T-Tauri, stars

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Gibor Basri discusses "Project Astro" to encourage participation in the sciences

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Gibor Basri talks about getting external funding for research

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Gibor Basri recounts his involvement in the discovery of extra-solar planets

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Gibor Basri offers his perspective on defining a planet

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Gibor Basri discusses the debate about the definition of a planet

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Gibor Basri discusses the conflicting nature of science and culture

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Gibor Basri discusses the possibility of life on other planets

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Gibor Basri talks about his administrative positions at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Gibor Basri talks about his involvement in professional organizations

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Gibor Basri discusses his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Gibor Basri reflects on his life's accomplishments

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Gibor Basri explains the value of the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Gibor Basri talks about his desire to write science fiction

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Gibor Basri describes his current family

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Gibor Basri shares how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

9$3

DATitle
Gibor Basri discusses space exploration versus research
Gibor Basri explains how astronomers study stars
Transcript
Now your freshman year, I guess the summer of your freshman year, the summer of 1969, July the 20th, Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.$$That's right, walks on the moon.$$"One small step for...$$Yeah, I was, that blew my mind. Being attached to science fiction and astronomy and everything else, that was a huge--I can remember that really well. I was home with my dad [Saul Basri] and watched it on TV. Yeah, I couldn't believe that. It was so amazing.$$Could you picture yourself working for NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] at that time?$$Yeah, I thought about doing that, and I kept it on the plate for a while, eventually realizing being an astronaut wasn't quite what I wanted--I knew astronauts here at [University of California] Berkeley, one guy in particular. He ended up not flying, but he was back-up on one of those space lab missions, and he would have gone on the next one, except he got sick all of a sudden. But he had to kind of give up his research career in large piece to be an astronaut and train for years. At the end of the day, I actually valued the research more than I valued that kind of an experience. But, that's all way down the road here.$$To a lot of people can envision the physical exhilaration of going to outer space and that sort of thing more than they can picture the exhilaration of research.$$Right. But the truth is, we travel, I travel into space in my mind all the time, and it's a real experience, you know. When I study a star, I'm getting the starlight, I'm understanding it on a physical basis. If I tell you this star is rotating at six kilometers per second, it is. You know, so it's a little bit like being there. And we learn quite a bit about some of these systems. To me, I'm probing these places with my mind and my instruments, even though I'm not physically there, and that's an enterprise which I can participate in my whole life, whereas astronaut is much more exciting, but it's limited to the earth orbiting the moon, and it's only something you're going to do a few times in your life, at best. I had a graduate student who became an astronaut--she wasn't my graduate student, she took a class from me, and she was in the department. And she flew about four or five times to the space station, and I've seen her kind of home movies about it, and it's like, it's a really cool thing to do, but actually most of the time, they were on the station screwing panels in and kind of building this thing (laughter).$Okay. How do astronomers measure and, I guess, examine the stars?$$You know, a variety of ways. Old astronomy was mostly just about position and brightness, so you made maps of the sky, you plotted exactly where each star appeared to be, how bright they were, things of that sort. And then you'd plot the planets and try to understand the different cycles that you see in the sky, and so on. That was original astronomy. Very few people do that anymore these days, it's mostly all astrophysics. So, I'm really an astrophysicist. So, I, for example, collect the light from the stars, split it up into a lot of wavelengths and analyze the spectrum and apply physics to an understanding of as light comes up through the atmosphere of the star and gets into space and travels to the earth. What happens to it as it's passing through the atmosphere of the star, that's what determines the details of the spectrum, and I can infer physical properties of the atmosphere of the star from the spectrum, so that's one thing that we do. We do that for stars, we do that for galaxies, planets. Then there's another thing that's happened in the last, I guess, the last century, let's say, but mostly in the last fifty years, is that we've come to understand the human eye only samples a very small slice of the electromagnetic spectrum. So, in other words, stars just don't emit visible light. They emit radio waves, they emit ultraviolet, they emit x-rays, they emit infrared, they emit microwaves. The whole spectrum of light that we don't see with our eyes is out there, emitted by all kinds of different astronomical objects. We now have the capability of studying them in those different forms of light, and each form of light tells you something quite different about the object. So, x-rays, for example, only come from really hot parts of the star. So the solar corona, for example, that halo we were talking about, the visible halo is really just sunlight, visible sunlight, bouncing off of electrons in the corona and coming to your eyes, so you see this haze of electrons, basically. The actual light emitted by the corona is x-rays, because the corona, as it turns out, is very hot, it's a million degrees. So, it's much hotter than the surface of the sun. This is, again, magnetic heating effect. So, when you take a picture of the sun and x-rays, it looks entirely different. You see mostly the corona, and you see these fantastic magnetic loops and all kinds of stuff going on that you don't see when you take a visible picture of the sun. So, astronomy has also expanded out in that way. And then, since computers have been around, we've expanded it another way, which is to run computer models of astronomical systems, put in the physics, and try to infer what's really going on in the system, and test the model against the observations. If they don't agree, you adjust the model until they agree, and then you've learned what it is you need to put in the model to agree with observations, so you can study the model now.

George Carruthers

Astrophysicist George Robert Carruthers was born on October 1, 1939 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father was a civil engineer and his mother worked for the U.S. Postal Service. The family lived in Milford, Ohio until Carruthers’ father died suddenly and his mother moved the family back to her native Chicago. As a child, he enjoyed visiting Chicago museums, libraries, planetariums and was a member of the Chicago Rocket Society and various science clubs. In 1957, Carruthers earned his high school diploma from Englewood High School in Chicago, also the same year the Russians launched the first Sputnik.

Carruthers attended the University of Illinois, earning his B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering in 1961. He also pursued his graduate work at the University of Illinois, earning his M.S. degree in nuclear engineering in 1962 and his Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronomical engineering in 1964. While conducting his graduate studies, Carruthers worked as a research and teaching assistant studying plasma and gases. In 1964, Carruthers began working for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. where his work focused on far ultraviolet astronomy. In 1969, the United States Patent office gave Carruthers credit for inventing the “Image Converter” – an instrument that detects electromagnetic radiation in short wave lengths – and in 1970 his invention recorded the first observation of molecular hydrogen in outer space. In 1972, Carruthers invented the first moon-based observatory, the far ultraviolet camera / spectrograph, which was used in the Apollo 16 mission.

In the 1980s, Carruthers helped create a program called the Science & Engineers Apprentice Program, which allowed high school students to spend a summer working with scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory. When, in 1986, Halley’s Comet passed Earth for the first time since 1910, one of Carruthers’ inventions captured an ultraviolet image of it. In 1991, he invented a camera that was used in the Space Shuttle Mission. Since 2002, Carruthers has taught a two-semester course in earth and space science at Howard University in Washington, D.C., an education initiative sponsored by a NASA Aerospace Workforce Development Grant.

Carruthers has been the recognized by professional and academic organizations for his achievements. The Office of Naval Research honored him as a distinguished Lecturer for his achievements in the field of space science. He is also a recipient of the Arthur S. Flemming Award, the Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society, and an Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal from NASA. Carruthers was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his contributions to aeronautical engineering.

George Carruthers was interviewed by The HistoryMakers<\em> on 08/26/2012.

Accession Number

A2004.112

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/27/2004 |and| 8/27/2012

Last Name

Carruthers

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Robert

Occupation
Schools

McCosh Elementary School

Englewood High School

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Search Occupation Category
First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Cincinnati

HM ID

CAR07

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southwestern United States

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

10/1/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Astrophysicist George Carruthers (1939 - ) has worked for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., where his work has focused on far ultraviolet astronomy. His numerous inventions include one that was used in the Apollo 16 Mission, another that captured an ultraviolet image of Halley's Comet, and a camera that was used in the Space Shuttle Mission.

Employment

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Naval Research Laboratory

Howard University

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

None

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George Carruthers' interview - part one

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George Carruthers lists his favorites - part one

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George Carruthers talks about his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George Carruthers talks about his parents' family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George Carruthers describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George Carruthers talks about his siblings and describes his childhood neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George Carruthers talks about his father's sudden death

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George Carruthers talks about his access to libraries and museums in Chicago, Illinois, and his interest in astronomy

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George Carruthers describes the changes that had occurred over the years in Cincinnati and Milford, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George Carruthers describes his experience in elementary school in Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George Carruthers talks about his interest in astronomy and space science as a young boy

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - George Carruthers describes his experience in junior high school and with the Chicago Rocket Society in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George Carruthers talks about his family's involvement with church

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George Carruthers talks about his family's reaction to his interest in astronomy and space science

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George Carruthers describes his experiences at Englewood High School in Chicago, Illinois.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George Carruthers describes his decision to attend the University of Illinois to study astronomy and aerospace engineering

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George Carruthers describes his experience at the University of Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George Carruthers describes his research on gases as a doctoral student at the University of Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George Carruthers describes his career aspirations as a doctoral student at the University of Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George Carruthers describes his research with far ultraviolet astronomy at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - George Carruthers describes his experience in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - George Carruthers describes his patent on the image converter in 1969

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George Carruthers talks about the Apollo space program

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George Carruthers describes his experience at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and his contribution towards the first observation of molecular hydrogen in space

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George Carruthers talks about his contribution towards capturing the ultra violet image of Haley's Comet in 1986

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George Carruthers talks about the period of transition between the Apollo missions and the Space Shuttle era in U.S. space programs

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George Carruthers talks about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George Carruthers describes his work with the STS-39 Space Shuttle mission in 1991, and his professional relationship with astronaut Guion Bluford

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George Carruthers talks about his involvement with mentoring students in space science

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George Carruthers talks about his involvement in science education initiatives for African American students

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George Carruthers talks about science fiction and scientific realities of the twenty-first century

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George Carruthers recalls the Space Shuttle Columbia accident in 2003

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George Carruthers discusses collaborative space research in the twenty-first century, and reflects upon the future of space science

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George Carruthers talks about prominent African Americans involved in the space program and administration

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George Carruthers reflects upon his most significant contributions towards space research

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George Carruthers gives advice to students who are interested in a career in astronomy or aeronautical engineering

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George Carruthers reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George Carruthers talks about the importance of science education and public outreach

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George Carruthers' interview - part two

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George Carruthers describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George Carruthers talks about his parents and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George Carruthers describes his interest in astronomy, and the influence of Buck Rogers comic books and the German scientist, Wernher von Braun

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George Carruthers describes his experience in elementary school in Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George Carruthers talks about his father's sudden death, and his family's move from Milford, Ohio to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George Carruthers talks about his grade schools in Milford, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George Carruthers describes his experience at Englewood High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George Carruthers talks about his correspondence with German scientist Wernher von Braun

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George Carruthers talks about Sputnik's influence on the U.S. space program

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George Carruthers describes the image converter device that he developed for detecting electromagnetic radiation in short wavelengths

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George Carruthers talks about his work with developing the image converter for detecting electromagnetic radiation, especially ultraviolet light

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George Carruthers talks about the applications of the electrograph ultraviolet camera

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George Carruthers talks about the application of the electrograph ultraviolet camera to capture images of Comet Kohoutek in 1973

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George Carruthers describes his involvement with NASA Starlab

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George Carruthers talks about the first observation of molecular hydrogen outside of the Earth's atmosphere

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - George Carruthers talks about his involvement in science education and outreach

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - George Carruthers talks about the findings from the images of Haley's Comet in 1986

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - George Carruthers talks about his involvement with the National Technical Association (NTA)

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - George Carruthers talks about serving on the Space Telescope Science Institute's review committee for the Hubble telescope

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - George Carruthers talks about the lack of student recruitment in the physics department at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George Carruthers talks about the state of the physics department at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George Carruthers talks about his involvement on the Council of the Smithsonian Institution

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George Carruthers talks about Global Imaging Monitor of the Ionosphere (GIMI) and the High Resolution Airglow/Aurora Spectroscopy experiment

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George Carruthers talks about his teaching experience at Howard University's department of physics and astronomy

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George Carruthers talks about being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2003

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George Carruthers talks about the activities that he is involved in after retiring from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George Carruthers describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George Carruthers reflects upon his career and his legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George Carruthers talks about his family

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - George Carruthers talks about visual and practical ways to teach science, engineering and mathematics

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - George Carruthers shares his views on communicating science, and generating interest in science and engineering amongst students

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - George Carruthers talks about the importance of science education and public outreach

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - George Carruthers talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - George Carruthers talks about the International Space Station

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - George Carruthers talks about the National Technical Association (NTA)

Tape: 3 Story: 16 - George Carruthers talks about Science, Mathematics, Aerospace, Research and Technology, Inc. (SMART)

Tape: 3 Story: 17 - George Carruthers explains the transit of the planet Venus between the sun and the Earth, and the Venus Transit Program at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George Carruthers talks about the annual mathematics contest sponsored by the National Technical Association (NTA)