White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame

Dr. George Gardiner
Founder, NMSU Physical Science Lab
Served 1946 – 1961
Inducted 1986

George W. Gardiner was born July 28, 1897. He attended school at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada until the start of World War I. He enlisted in August 1914 and served the Canadian Army in England, France and Germany. On returning he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1923 from Acadia University in Nova Scotia. In 1929 he earned a doctorate in physics from Yale University.

In 1946 he founded the Physical Science Laboratory at New Mexico State University and served as its director until his retirement in 1961. The lab was established to respond to requests for assistance by the Army, Navy, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (PSL). Since 1946 the lab has been engaged in support of the White Sands mission.

One of Dr. Gardiner’s first achievements was conceiving and implementing a “skyscreen” after an errant Hermes II missile crashed outside Juarez, Mexico. The skyscreen provided visible boundaries against the sky through which observers checked each missile’s trajectory. If there was a malfunction, radio commands could be sent to the missile to cut off the engine or destruct it. It was the beginning of missile flight safety and led to real-time impact prediction.

Under Gardiner’s leadership, a close relationship developed between the range and PSL. The outgrowth was on-board missile instrumentation, telemetry systems, antenna design and testing, support of atmospheric sciences and upper atmospheric investigation and the bui1ding of probe and target missiles. In addition, Gardiner helped open the door for a cooperative training program for students in engineering, mathematics, physics and accounting at the range. Under the program students alternated six-month work phases at White Sands with six-month on-campus study.

Gardiner died in December 1964. Gardiner Hall is a Physics Department building at NMSU named in his honor.