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George Edward Alcorn

(1940 - )

Physicist, Engineer

Alcorn_George.jpg

George E. Alcorn Courtesy of NASA/Goddard/Debora McCallum

George E. Alcorn, a former assistant director at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, is a leader in semiconductor device development and technology transfer. He is also an award-winning inventor. He holds eight patents on over thirty inventions, including the imaging X-ray spectrometer (1984), a device for identifying materials through their visual X-ray spectra. For this spectrometer, he received both U.S. and Japanese patents and the NASA/GSFC Inventor of the Year award.

Dr. Alcorn joined NASA in 1978 and has held a variety of research and administrative positions with the agency. He has headed teams to develop new technologies for space stations and methods for detecting life in space, and he has directed programs for commercialization of NASA technologies. He also helped establish NASA’s first technology incubator, based in Baltimore. Dr. Alcorn served as the project manager for the ALTMS (Airborne Lidar Topographical Mapping System), which was awarded Government Executive Magazine’s prestigious Government Technology Leadership award.

Prior to his long career with NASA, Dr. Alcorn worked in private industry with North American Rockwell, Perkin Elmer, and IBM. Many of his inventions and innovations while working for those companies were related to semiconductors.

Parallel to his research, Dr. Alcorn has had a distinguished career in teaching. He is a professor of physics and electrical engineering at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia, and he has been a visiting professor at other institutions. Dr. Alcorn helped organize the Meyerhoff Program, which supports talented minority Ph.D. candidates in science and math, and served as an original mentor in the program. For seventeen years, he devoted Saturdays to teaching science in a special honors program for inner-city students.

Dr. Alcorn earned a B.A. from Occidental College, majoring in physics and winning letters in football and baseball. He completed graduate work in physics at Howard University.

Dr. Alcorn’s achievements have elicited honors from many institutions and organizations, including Howard University, NASA, and IBM, along with special recognition from the United States Congress. In 2010, Dr. Alcorn received the highest award of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the Robert H. Goddard Award of Merit, “for outstanding innovation and significant contributions to space science, technology, and NASA programs as an engineer, a physicist, a professor and an inventor.”

Links to Additional Information

Biography from IEEE Global History Network

Article on Dr. Alcorn from Pittsburgh, PA, Post-Gazette.com

Biography from Energy Kids, U.S. Department of Energy

National Inventors Hall of Fame Interview

Biography from Blackinventor.com

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