George Anjou Tanton – Obituary

By  | August 3, 2018 | Filed under: Laughlin Service Funeral Home, Obituaries

Dr. George Anjou Tanton, devoted husband, father and grandfather, died July 31 after a long illness. A retired research physicist, he had a distinguished career that included working in the formative years of the U.S. space program. He was 83.

Mr. Tanton was born in Jefferson, Oklahoma, on March 16, 1935, to Ola Strobel Tanton and Ralph Tanton. He excelled in academics and sports, was the quarterback of his high school football team, baseball team pitcher, and a state champion archer. His early love for aviation, radio, and astronomy led to his career.

Upon graduating from Oklahoma City University, he was hired in 1957 to work with the Army Ballistic Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. In 1960, he joined the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In both roles, he worked with German scientists who had come to Alabama through Operation Paperclip. His work included designing audio and sensory projects that were placed on the early rocket launches, and a pickup and recording system that he designed captured the sounds of “monkeynauts” Abel and Baker. He used early fiber-optic technology to develop the aspect sensor, which enabled a satellite to maintain a steady position in space. He also designed instrumentation for the gamma-ray telescope.

After serving at NASA, he joined the Army Missile Command. He did semiconductor research and development, worked in sensor technology, and designed and patented the magneto optical mapper system, or MOM. He held 13 patents, including one in Canada. He received his 30-year government service award in 1988 and went on to work for Teledyne Brown and later Morgan Research, retiring in 2001.

Mr. Tanton did graduate work at the University of Oklahoma and earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in physics at the University of Alabama. He received additional education at the NATO Advanced Study Institute. During the early 1970s, he taught part-time at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville.

He acquired new skills in retirement, restoring books for Friends of the Library at the Huntsville Public Library and repairing watches free of charge for others, including people in need. He used his fluency in German to do translation work for a regional historical society.

His greatest love was spending time with Janie, his wife of 40 years, and family and friends. He was a longtime member of Twickenham Church of Christ and was active for many years in the Friends of the Library and the Huntsville Archaeological Society.

He is survived by his wife, Janie Zopfi Tanton, of Huntsville; a daughter, Rebecca Pizzirusso (Mitch) of Newark, New York; three sons, Timothy Tanton (Jama) of Nashville, Tennessee;  Peter Tanton (Louise) of Heddon-on-the-Wall, England; and Matthew Tanton of Huntsville; three grandsons, Nicholas Hollon of Berkeley, California; Rhys Bowen-Tanton of Nashville; and Benjamin Swann-Tanton of Heddon-on-the-Wall; a sister, Shirley Kindred, of Enid, Oklahoma; and sister-in-law, Brenda Segall (Elliott), of Woodstock, Georgia. He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Phil Tanton; and two sisters, Laverna McSwain and Marion Woods.

Visitation will be at 1 p.m. August 27 at Twickenham Church of Christ, followed by a memorial service at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hacienda of Hope through Twickenham Church or to Child Haven of Cullman, Alabama.

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