H. George Hamilton, 87, longtime Fels Planetarium director

H. George Hamilton
H. George Hamilton
Posted: July 16, 2012

H. George Hamilton was director of the Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute from 1970 to 1990, where he helped produce more than 40 shows.

Derrick Pitts, now the Fels Planetarium program director and its chief astronomer, said that Mr. Hamilton had a lasting impact soon after he joined the staff as associate director in 1968.

Because Fels lectures were delivered in person at that time, Pitts said, "George recognized the inconsistency in the delivery of content and the quality of presentation."

Mr. Hamilton bet management that "a prerecorded program would be better received, with better consistency and content and quality."

He won.

"Thus was born the prerecorded planetarium program that is the standard" across the nation, Pitts said.

On Wednesday, July 11, Mr. Hamilton, 87, died of a heart attack at his home in Cherry Hill.

"George was an incredible innovator," Pitts said.

"He built everything he needed for planetarium presentations from scratch," he said - his own special effects, his own slide-projected automations.

While planetarium director, he was also vice president of the Franklin Institute Science Museum from 1981 to 1990 and project manager for construction of what is now the Tuttleman IMAX Theater there.

"George," Pitts said, "was the guru of visual-presentation technology."

Joel N. Bloom, who died in 2008, was director and president of the Franklin Institute Science Museum from 1969 to 1990.

"If Joel Bloom was the concept guy," Pitts said, "George Hamilton was the ultimate operations guy."

Born in Bordentown, Mr. Hamilton graduated from what is now the College of New Jersey and served in the Merchant Marines.

A son, Brandon, said that Mr. Hamilton taught for 13 years at the former William MacFarland High School in Bordentown and then taught high school physics for two years in Cherry Hill.

Mr. Hamilton taught astronomy and physics at what is now the College of New Jersey from 1962 to 1968 and lectured on weekends at the New Jersey State Planetarium from 1965 to 1968, when he became Fels associate director.

During a brief retirement, he wrote the storyboard and suggested the visuals for a show at the Smithsonian Institution marking the 500th anniversary of Columbus' trip, his son said.

Mr. Hamilton then taught astronomy and physics as an adjunct professor at Community College of Philadelphia from 1991 to 2003.

He was a founding member of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society, Pitts said, and in 2005 gave the annual Margaret Noble address at its Philadelphia meeting.

He was also a founding member of the International Planetarium Directors Conference, Pitts said.

Besides his son Brandon, Mr. Hamilton is survived by his wife, Carleen; sons Roger, Alexander, and Brock; daughters Tia Hamilton and Elyse Hamilton-Soares; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His first wife, Marie, died in 1974.

A visitation was set from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 17, at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, 1989 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill, before an 11 a.m. funeral. Interment is to be private.

Donations may be sent to the Alzheimer's Association, South Jersey Chapter, Suite 310, Three Eves Dr., Marlton, N.J., 08053.

Contact Walter F. Naedele

at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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