For day 7 of our Black History Month celebration we recognize: Dr. Arthur B. C. Walker Jr.!
Dr. Arthur B.C. Walker Jr. was an African American astrophysicist who helped in developing solar telescopes that captured the Sun’s corona.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio on August 24, 1936, Walker shared an interest in science. Inspired by Albert Einstein and Benjamin Banneker, Walker attended the Bronx High School of Science. In 1957, Walker earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Case Western Institute of Technology. He went on to receive his master’s degree in 1958 and doctorate degree in 1962 from the University of Illinois.
In the same year, Walker enlisted in the United States Air Force, where he contributed to the development of instruments for a rocket launch satellite designed to investigate the Van Allen Belts.
Following his service in the military in 1965, Walker joined the Space Physics laboratory of the Aerospace Corporation, which launched his career of investigating the solar atmosphere using rocket launch instruments with ultraviolet wavelengths and x-rays.
In 1974, Walker came to Stanford University where he taught in the department of Applied Physics. Shortly after coming to Stanford, Walker was appointed as the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. While at Stanford, Walker mentored 13 graduate students who were underrepresented in science. Among the graduate students Walker mentored was Sally Ride, who was the first U.S. woman in space.
Throughout his career, Walker led as well as served on several committees, which included NASA, NSF, NAS, and the Walker Committee. One of the most important committees Walker served on was the committee put together by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 to investigate the space shuttle Challenger explosion. Walker served alongside Neil Armstrong, Richard Feynman, and Sally Ride in what would become one of the most important committees of the United States space program.
In 1987, Walker, along with his colleagues, and graduate and undergraduate students at Stanford, developed and launched a successful rocket payload to observe the Sun’s corona. Walker’s images of the Sun’s corona would later grace the cover of Science Magazine in September of 1988. In 1991, Walker and the group launched an instrument carrying 14 telescopes into space, and in 1994, another instrument with 19 telescopes fitted with narrow x-ray bands.
On April 29, 2001, Walker passed away. Prior to his passing, NASA recognized Walker’s work by bestowing him with their Distinguished Public Service Medal. Walker’s legacy continues to live on through his contributions to science and the work of his countless mentees.