Born March 22, 1940 George Edward Alcorn Jr. was born to George Alcorn Sr., and Arletta Dixon Alcorn. He was an excellent student with the support of his mother and father who instilled in him and his young brother Charles the importance of education.
While in high school George excelled in his academic work as well as an athlete in baseball and football on the high school varsity team. He received an academic scholarship to Occidental College in Los Angeles, California.
He also graduated with honors with a degree in physics in 1962 and followed this by enrolling in the Nuclear Physics program at Howard University. He completed his Master’s work in 1963.
During the summers if 1962 and 1963 he worked at a leading aerospace company at North Rockwell in the space decision and was assigned to perform computer analysis on the orbital mechanics and launch trajectories for rockets and missiles.
Some of his work involved the Titan and Saturn rockets from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Apollo space missions and well as the NOVA missile.
In 1967 he was enrolled in the Physics program at Howard University and received a PhD in Atomic and Molecular physics. After he settled and got married to Marie DaViller in 1969. Soon after George worked in the aerospace division at the Ford Motor Company and served as a senior scientist in that division.
He later worked as a senior physicist for Perkin Elmer, a multinational technology corporation and then as an advisory engineer for International Business Machines (IBM). His relationship with IBM proved quite valuable in 1973 when he was selected to teach as an IBM Visiting Professor in Electrical Engineering at Howard University (eventually becoming a full professor).
As if his schedule was not already busy enough, he also taught Electrical Engineering at the University of the District of Columbia as a full professor.
In 1978, Alcorn left IBM and joined NASA where he invented an imaging X-ray spectrometer which used thermomigration of aluminum. X-ray spectrometry is used to provide data which can be analyzed for a number of applications, including for obtaining information about remote solar systems and other space objects.
He would receive a patent for the device in 1984. As a result of the significance of this work, he was the NASA/GSFC Inventor of the Year (GSFC is an acronym for the Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA’s first space flight center established in May of 1959). In 1986 he developed an improved method of fabrication using laser drilling.
In 1992, Alcorn was appointed the head of the Office of Commercial Programs at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). He was then placed in charge of GSFC’s Evolution program where he oversaw the development of the space station.
In 1999, he was awarded the Government Technology Leadership award and two years later was awarded special congressional recognition for his work for aiding business in the Virgin Island in employing technology. Finally in 2005 he was named the Assistant Director for Standard/Excellent – Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate for GSFC.
Throughout his career, Alcorn received numerous awards for his contributions to science. Additionally, he received the NASA-EEO medal and the Heritage of Greatness Award from Howard University for his efforts in diversifying NASA and the world of science.
Interview with George Alcorn