Henry T. Sampson

To Henry T. Sampson, Jr., for inventions, including the gamma electric cell; contributions concerning direct conversion of nuclear energy to electricity, rocket propulsion, and computer simulation of electrical systems; and contributions as a writer and historian in tracing the Black film history.

Director of Planning and Operations Directorate of the Space Test Program, Aerospace Corporation (retired), El Segundo, CA

  • BS, 1956, Chemical Engineering, Purdue University
  • MS, 1961, Engineering, University of California-Los Angeles
  • MS, 1965, Nuclear Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • PhD, 1967, Nuclear Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Upon earning his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Purdue University, Henry T. Sampson sought to begin his career in his home state of Mississippi; however, racial attitudes in the South in the mid-1950s prevented him from finding work there. He went to China Lake, California for a civil service job with the U.S.Naval Ordnance Test Station, working in the areas of high-energy solid propellants and case bonding materials for solid rocket motors from 1956 to 1961.

Sampson pursued MS and PhD degrees under professor George H.Miley, in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, then returned to California to work for Aerospace Corporation. As director of planning and operations for the company’s space test program, he led senior engineering staff in the planning, acquisition, development, launching, and space operation of several satellites. During his 30 years at Aerospace, he performed studies to evaluate the application of nuclear, photovoltaic, and magnetohydrodynamic power for advanced, high-power satellite programs. He also developed a computer simulation program to evaluate the performance of various types of hybrid automobile and city bus power systems over standardized driving cycles. His group planned and provided lead technical support for various Air Force contractors who developed and successfully launched and operated 13 low earth-orbit satellites carrying experimental payloads. Sampson also served on an independent launch readiness review team for the first launch of Milstar, a satellite communications system that provides secure, jam-resistant,worldwide communications to meet wartime requirements for the U.S. military.

Sampson has written several technical papers and has been granted patents on inventions related to that research. Among Sampson’s most notable engineering accomplishments is his co-invention of the gamma electric cell, patented in 1971.

In addition to his work at Aerospace Corporation, Sampson is known as one of the most important Black writers of this century. His area of concentration is the Black presence in the film and entertainment industries. His extensive writings are recognized as important source material for anyone researching this long-neglected area of American history.

Current as of 2009.