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Deaf People in Astronomy and Rocket Science: Robert Weitbrecht

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Robert Weitbrecht

The picture on the left is of Weitbrecht showing his TTY to Marsters and is from Gallaudet. Robert Weitbrecht (1920-1983).  He was known as "The Father of the TTY" and a pioneer in the telecommunications field who invented the first TTY modem which revolutionized phone communications for the deaf community.

This section will focus on his astronomy-related pursuits. After discovering his deafness shortly after his birth, his mother learned about speechreading upon enrolling in a Tracy correspondence course. Weitbrecht joined other deaf children in a small private class and tutored by a retired teacher a few years later. The family enjoyed walks at night to view the night sky which sparked Weitbrecht.'s study of the constellations, meteors, and solar eclipses. Weitchbrecht constructed a reflecting telescope and won the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science award when he was eighteen. After attending junior college, he enrolled at the University of California in Berkeley where he was an astronomy major. He also earned a master's degree in astronomy at the University of Chicago.

He was employed as a physicist at the University of California, and as an electronics scientist at the U.S. Naval Air Missile Test Center in Point Mugu, California where he developed an electronics system for the photography of missiles in flight. Among his projects were working under Ernest Lawrence on the Manhattan Project and at the Radiation Laboratory on Cyclotron Hill. Having access to the observatory, Weitbrecht continued his studies of the planets and stars. His accomplishments include the design of electro-optical-mechanical instruments for nuclear physics, working on oxygen safety equipment, electronics for air-sea-land rescue operations, designs for automatic camera systems that translated star images, designed a precision astrometric camera system, and studied high definition photography of the ECHO satellite system. He was a member of several organizations including the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 

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