Famed astronomer visits W.O. Parmer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The students of W.O. Parmer received a treat on Monday, April 28, when former student and current award-winning astronomer Dr. Frank Low returned to visit the school’s current second-grade classes.

Low was recently awarded the 2003 Joseph Weber Award by the American Astronomical Society for his development of a very low noise, super-cooled amplifier for space exploration missions and the Hubble Telescope.

He is a Regents Research Professor Emeritus with the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, in Tempe, Ariz.

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&uot;It all started here,&uot; Low told the gathering of approximately 200 second-graders, school administrators and city officials. &uot;I owe it all to W.O. Parmer and Willie and Corey Routon, my aunt and uncle, whom I lived with in Greenville until after my third-grade year. They inspired me to learn and gave me the encouragement to do well. I attended W.O. Parmer as a second- and third-grader. &uot;

Low told the students that the opportunities were there for them also if they would take their studies seriously.

The astronomer also discussed some of his research work with which he has been involved through the years, including the development of an instrument called the bolometer, which measures infrared radiation.

&uot;With this instrument, I was the first person to measure the night-time temperature of the moon,&uot; Low said. &uot;It is several hundred degrees below zero; it’s very cold.&uot;

Low also was honored with a private reception, where he was joined by family members (uncle) Cedric and Addy Woodruff, (aunt) Vivian Edgar, (second cousin) Mae Miller, (friend) Ed Jernigan, and area dignitaries, including Rep. Charles Newton (who also is distant cousin of Low’s), Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed, Mayor Dexter McLendon, County Commissioner Jesse McWilliams, City Councilwoman Susan Murphy, Board of Education members Terry Williams and Frank Thigpen, and Gene and Nonie Hardin, Principal Carole Teague and other W.O. Parmer faculty and staff members.

Low was educated at Yale University and received his doctorate in physics at Rice University. He went to work with Texas Instruments in Dallas after leaving Rice, and worked there for two-and-a-half years, during which time he developed the bolometer.

Low said the military uses this technology for its night-vision instruments. He is considered the &uot;father of modern infrared astronomy.&uot;

Low’s bolometer enabled him to receive research grants, and launched his astronomical career.

Among his other accomplishments is a 30-year project with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in which Low has been developing a satellite that will monitor the nearest galaxies for planets most likely to contain life. The satellite is set to launch in August this year.

&uot;This satellite will tell us which galaxies

– and which planets within those galaxies – are the best candidates for exploration,&uot; Low said.

The near-70-year-old scientist also measured the internal temperature of Jupiter with his device and performed an infrared survey of the sky for NASA.

&uot;I have wanted to come back to Greenville for years, and as time passed, I realized that I was getting on in years, so I contacted my family members in Mobile and asked them to arrange a visit,&uot; Low said. &uot;Everyone has been so warm and friendly, especially Charles, who has taken his valuable time to arrange this; I have really enjoyed my visit.&uot;

&uot;W.O. Parmer has been given a priceless gift with Dr. Low’s visit,&uot; Principal Carol Teague said. &uot;We are very honored to have him visit us. This is something the children will always remember.&uot;

Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed also thought the Low’s gesture was fantastic.

&uot;It is always an honor to have anyone, not just those of Dr. Low’s stature, come back to visit our schools and take time to talk with the students. It makes the children aware of their heritage and shows them the opportunities that exist for them.&uot;

Rep. Charles Newton was instrumental in arranging the visit for Low.

&uot;Low’s uncle contacted me and said Dr. Low wanted to visit the school because he had fond memories of it and believed that it was a key element that sent him on his way academically,&uot; Newton said. &uot;It’s a fabulous opportunity for the students and for us as well.&uot;