Physicist Who Helped World See 1st Moon Walk Dies

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) -
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S. flag during the Apollo 11 flight to the moon, a photograph beamed back to earth through a camera tube invented by Ernest Sternglass. (NASA/Neil Armstrong)
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S. flag during the Apollo 11 flight to the moon, a photograph beamed back to earth through a camera tube invented by Ernest Sternglass. (NASA/Neil Armstrong)

Physicist Ernest Sternglass, whose research helped make it possible for the world to see the first moon walk, has died at age 91.

His research helped lead to a sensitive camera tube that captured low-light lunar action during the 1969 moon landing and U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps.

Sternglass was born in 1923 to a Jewish family and fled Nazi Germany in 1938. As a 23-year-old, he was working at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Washington, D.C., when he wrote to Albert Einstein in 1947 to offer an explanation on a scientific matter. To his surprise, he was invited to the famous scientist’s home in Princeton.

Einstein told the young researcher not to pursue a career in theoretical physics and advised him to, instead, “always keep a cobbler’s job” and do useful things. Sternglass went on to earn his doctorate in applied and engineering physics from Cornell.

He was among the early scientists concerned with the health effects of atomic bomb testing. In 1963, he presented testimony to the Senate Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty hearing comparing atmospheric bomb testing with an unsafe level of X-ray exposure.