Tributes paid to man who changed the face of space

Bruce Woodgate, inventor of the Hubble space telescope camera, died aged 75. SUS-140705-125948001
Bruce Woodgate, inventor of the Hubble space telescope camera, died aged 75. SUS-140705-125948001

Bruce Woodgate - a man who was born and bred in Eastbourne and went on to become one of the world’s greatest physicists - has passed away aged 75.

Bruce, who grew up in a house on St Anthony’s Avenue, was the principal investigator for the Hubble space telescope camera that helped scientists discover black holes and supernovas.

He enjoyed an almost 40-year career at NASA before passing away early last week following a series of strokes in the past month.

Bruce started his career working for the Royal Observatory in Herstmonceux Castle after studying at what was then called Eastbourne Grammar School. He left the town to study at university in London and soon after graduating, moved to America to start his career with NASA.

It was here that he became known for the work he did designing, developing and constructing the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) - a game-changer in astronomy research. The STIS has since been able to take groundbreaking images and spectra of stars and planets forming, of black holes in the centres of distant galaxies, of dying stars at vast distances and detected the exosphere of an exoplanet.

It was little surprise that Woodgate was a recipient of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre’s Award of Merit and the NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal.

Bruce leaves behind his wife Pat, two daughters Cathy and Nina, two granddaughters Samantha and Julia and grandson Alex. His brother Roger lives in Canada and his sister Heather lives in Scotland. He would occasionally return to Eastbourne to visit his mother, who still lived in the town, until her death in 1996.

Bruce’s colleague at NASA, Phil Plait, said, “He was a good guy and what I always thought a scientist should be: curious, inquisitive, willing to try to figure out if something made sense (and willing to stick his neck out if it was anywhere near the borderline of possibility), and fascinated by the amazing science his camera made possible.”