About George A. Carroll (1902-1987)
Principal Founder of Stony Ridge Observatory

Born: James Albert Jackson Carroll, April 4, 1902 in Belton, Texas.

Died: July 17, 1987 in Tujunga, California in his 85th year.

He grew up on a farm in the Tennessee Valley, between the towns of Belton and Killeen, TX.

In 1910, at the age of 8, his interest in astronomy was sparked by the apparition of Halley's Comet.

When just a lad of 16 in Killeen, "George" (his adopted name of unknown origin) built and flew his first airplane. At that time he was one of the youngest pilots in the country.

The 1920's saw Carroll "barnstorming" through the counties of Texas, flying stunts for circus crowds, racing motorcycles and speedboats at carnivals.

1927 - He joined with 3 partners to form the Texas Aero Corporation, the 1st commercial aircraft fabricating facility in Texas.

George Williams and George Carroll designed and built the "Temple Monoplane" to deliver newspapers and mail to remote counties in the Lone Star State.

None of the original aircraft remain in existence today, but an airplane restorer scavenged the former sites of Texas Aero to come up with enough cast out and extra parts to build a flying model of the Temple Monoplane. This airplane is now on exhibit at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. In 1970, a commemorative plaque was placed by the State of Texas on the site of the original hanger of the Texas Aero Corporation honoring the pioneers of Texan aviation, including credit to George Carroll. According to the Temple Daily Telegram, the plaque was reportedly stolen sometime between 2004 and 2007.The plaque was replaced in 2010, with a dedication celebration for family members and descendants of the aviation pioneers and the public.

After 1930, removed to Louisiana flying a seaplane for Texas Oil Company, supplying offshore drilling rigs. Relocated to Ft. Worth to take a position as a Maintenance Engineer for Braniff Airways at Love Field in Dallas.

1934 - Made his first astronomical telescope.

1940 - Removed to California to pursue a job offer at the Vega Aircraft Corporation in Burbank.

His role there, as Staff Engineer-Head of Service Design, was to troubleshoot aircraft problems at the Burbank location as well as at locations all over the country for the Army Air Force.

Vega Aircraft was merged into the Lockheed-California Company where George continued on as a Design-Development Engineer.

Lockheed Aircraft Years,
The "Skunk Works" and the Solar Observatory.

In 1943 Lockheed-California formed a division called the Advanced Development Projects (ADP) Unit at their expanding facilities in Burbank, CA. The ADP produced classified, cutting-edge experimental products for aviation, the military, and later, for space research. It acquired the title of the "Skunk Works," as an offshoot reference to the popular comic strip, L'il Abner, where all kind's of smelly, strange potions were brewed up. For Lockheed Skunk Works employees, the smells emanated from a nearby plastics manufacturer.

George was associated with the Skunk Works during the period between 1943 and the early 1960's. His association with the future Stony Ridge Observatory began to develop in 1947, during these Lockheed years.

Some SRO members who knew George say that he had some sort of connection to the Skunk Works, but were uncertain as to what he did there. George was somewhat of an internal person.

Not surprisingly, this author has not been able to obtain much specific information about George's role at the highly-secreted research facility. After all, the founder of the Skunk Works, Kelly Johnson, laid down 14 Rules to which all employees must abide. Rule #13 was " Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures." HOW they accomplished their goals was not restricted, and has been used as an efficiency model that many, in numerous industries, follow today.

It can probably be said of George, that he obeyed Kelly Johnson's rule #13.

From a eulogy written by George Carroll, Jr. in 1987, he wrote that over his lifetime, his father had built 20 aircraft, including a gyro copter in the 1960's.

George was on the staff at Lockheed's Briar Summit Solar Observatory, later called Lockheed Solar Observatory which was located at Lockheed's Rye Canyon Research Center, a.k.a. the Skunk Works. He designed and built 2 spar telescopes for the observatory, one of which was featured in a Sky & Telescope article published in their July 1970 issue, "The Spar Telescope of Lockheed Solar Observatory" by George A. Carroll, pp10-13.

Pictures and text about that telescope clearly show the Carroll design features that were taken from the SRO 30-inch telescope. See pages 7 & 8 of the Thomas Tool & Die Company brochure.

Above: George Carroll (left) and Tony Heinzman at Stony Ridge Observatory, May 1982. Photo by Mike O'Neal.

An interesting hand written auto-biographical letter from George Carroll to Tony Heinzman describes George's early life and astronomical influences and is here presented from the SRO archives.


The Stony Ridge Years

1947 - George and 2 others, Jerome B. White and Ernest R Siefkin, formed the "Association of Amateur Astronomers."

In 1957 the Association of Amateur Astronomers, then numbering 15 members, filed papers to change the name of the organization to Stony Ridge Observatory, Inc (SRO).

Construction began immediately to build an observatory housing a large reflecting telescope for the benefit of amateur astronomers. Again, George Carroll led the design and engineering for this facility.

1963 - With financial help from the Lockheed Corporation, Stony Ridge Observatory was completed in 1963. Lockheed had become increasingly occupied in the U.S. space program, and was looking for an observatory in which they could take high-resolution images of the lunar surface for charting possible landing sites for the Apollo program. Money was paid up front to SRO to finish the construction on the new observatory, in return for 1600 hour's worth of telescope time at its completion for their lunar mapping project.

In 1971 George Carroll was awarded the "G. Bruce Blair Award," by the Western Amateur Astronomers for his important contribution to amateur astronomy. This award has been called the "Nobel Prize" for amateur astronomers.

2004 - Five Stony Ridge Observatory members, using the Carroll designed telescope, discovered a new asteroid. The name "Georgecarroll" was suggested by the discoverers to honor the founding force behind SRO. The number/name (144633) Georgecarroll was officially accepted by the Minor Planet Center and the International Astronomical Union. This little planetary neighbor, about 3 miles (4.5 km) in diameter residing in an orbit between Mars and Jupiter, will always be a reminder to the past contributions of George Carroll to the science of Astronomy.

scb Apr 26, 2010
revised Mar 19, 2012
revised Mar 8, 2017

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