Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Charles H. Ehrmann

Charles H. Ehrmann (Charley) was the first child born in America to the small German Jewish community that, fleeing Hitler's tyranny, settled in Toms River during the late 1930's.

Charley's father died when he was one month old and Charley was raised by his mother in his extended German, and only very newly American family. Charley spoke only German until he entered the Toms River public school system. However, he rapidly adjusted to his English-speaking classmates and went on to earn honors.

Charley showed a natural aptitude for science and engineering right from the start and this talent was encouraged by his teachers at Toms River High School. Seymour Hertzon was Charley's mentor in the Airplane Club and Charley's interest in fying objects would prove to be a lifelong passion.

Charley went to Rensselaer on full scholarship and upon graduation went to work directly with NASA. At NASA Charley had the opportunity to work in high energy astrophysics (originally called the Fields and Particles Branch) and he stayed in this field for his entire professional career. Man has always wanted to know what lies out there in the galaxies beyond our solar system and through his work, Charley helped scientists gather the data that would give the answers to some of those questions. He also had his own company, Orthometrics, which built all sorts of small computers and instruments for private companies as well as government agencies. He was a successful businessman and looked forward to building his small company into a bigger one after his retirement from NASA.

During his 26 year career at NASA, Charley provided flight instruments and designs for the Orbiting Geophysical Observatory from 1964 through 1975, the Interplanetary Monitoring Platform from 1960 through 1963, the Pioneer 6-7 which was launched into orbit in 1966 circling the sun near Venus, the Small Astronomical Satellite launched in 1972 from off the coast of Kenya, the High Energy Astrophysical Observatory in 1978, the International Sun- Earth Explorer which was launched in August 1978 and the Goddard Space Flight Center, which was named after Robert H. Goddard, the "father" of American rocket design in the early 1900's.

Charley's last launch before his death in August 1988 was an instrument launched from Alice Springs in the Australian outback in May 1988. This instrument captured data on the 1987A Supernova, a once-in-four-hundred-year occurrence. The launch was successful and information gathered from that flight was published in articles in the journals Nature and Science.

Charley was widely recognized as an energetic and versatile engineer who helped the early GSFC hands-on, can-do spirit and maintained that throughout his career. Among his friends Charley inspired admiration and affection. He received many merit awards and notices of outstanding achievement in the course of his career with the government, culminating in the receipt of the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal presented posthumously on August 31, 1989. The medal was presented for his ··outstanding contributions to the development of spaceflight instrumentation over the past 26 years and for his vital role in the NASA observation of Supernova 1987a.

He helped design and develop the series of digitized spark chambers for Gamma Ray Astrophysics beginning in 1962 which culminated in the design of the EGRET instrument for the Gamma Ray Observatory. On April 5, the Space Shuttle Atlantis placed the Gamma Ray Observatory, the largest unmanned scientific observatory ever designed into orbit. The GRO spacecraft weighs nearly 17 tons and fills two thirds of the Shuttle bay; the four instruments it contains weigh about 6 tons and three are each about the size of a subcompact car.

Charley was Chief Project Engineer for EGRET, which stands for Energetic Gamma Ray experiment Telescope, one of the four instruments in the GRO spacecraft. Charley completed EGRET in January 1988, but due to Space Shuttle delays and difficulties, the GRO space craft was only just launched from the Space Shuttle on April 7, 1991, only days ago. EGRET will provide data to astronomers and astrophysicists to help answer questions about the creation of elements, the explosion and collapse of stars and the destruction of matter and antimatter all processes associated with the production of gamma rays. The EGRET instrument may yield up the best data ever obtained in this field to date and this is Charley's legacy to NASA and to the space program and to all of us. Charley Ehrmann's name was placed on this last piece of him, orbiting around in the heavens, still doing good work.

According to his mother, Friedel Ehrmann of Toms River, Charley expressed many times his affection and gratitude to the Toms River Schools and to the faculty. He particularly was fond of Miss Elinor Bryant who was his first teacher in the Toms River Schools and to whom he attributed great patience and understanding when Charley could not express himself, at first not at all and later in a limited manner in the English language. He frequently said that Ms. Bryant presented to him opportunities that someone with less patience would have denied him.

As mentioned, Charley was extremely fond of Seymour Hertzon and Donald Davis, another of his science teachers. Charley frequently said that these two gentlemen helped him establish himself as a scientist.

We are proud and delighted to have Charles H. Ehrmann, Class of 1958, in the Toms River Schools Hall of Fame. We are sorry that he is no longer with us.

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