Home » DR. HENRY .T. SAMPSON JR.Scientist 1934- June 4, 2015



1934 –  June 4, 2015


First African American to earn a PH.D. In Nuclear Engineering in the United States of America





Henry was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1934 to Henry T. Sampson Sr. and Ester Ellis Sampson. He and his younger brother John B. Sampson were the only children. His parent’s were well educated. His father was an educator. His mother was from Vicksburg she earned her MS degree in social work and was considered the first African American social worker in Mississippi in that era. She also worked as professor of social work studies at Jackson State University. His family life was very privileged one for that era.

He graduated from Lanier High School in Jackson, Mississippi in 1951. He then attended Morehouse College in Atlanta before transferring to Purdue University in Indiana where he became a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He received a Bachelor’s degree in science from Purdue University in 1956. He graduated with an MS degree in engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1961.

He was a member of the United States Navy between the years 1962 and 1964. He was employed as a research chemical engineer at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake U.S. Naval Weapons Center, China Lake California.He pursued MS and PhD degrees under Professor George H.Miley, in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering

He received an MS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1965, and his PhD in 1967. He is the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering in the United States.

He earned an Atomic Energy Commission honor between 1964 and 1967. 1967- 1981 and served as the Director of Mission Development and Operations of the Space Test Program at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California. During his 30 years at Aerospace, he performed studies to evaluate the application of nuclear, photovoltaic, and magneto hydrodynamic 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. During 1967 his father Henry T. Sampson Sr. died.

His patents included a binder system for propellants and explosives and a case bonding system for cast composite propellants. Both inventions are related to solid rocket motors. He also pioneered a study of internal ballistics of solid rocket motors using high-speed photography.

On July 6, 1971 he was awarded a patent, with George H. Miley, for a gamma-electrical cell, a device that produces a high voltage from radiation sources, primarily gamma radiation, with proposed goals of generating auxiliary power from the shielding of a nuclear reactor. Additionally, the patent cites the cell’s function as a detector with self power and construction cost advantages over previous detectors.

In 1982 he was awarded the Black Image Award from Aerospace Corporation. In 1983 he was awarded the Blacks in Engineering, Applied Science Award, and prize for education, by the Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers.


Dr. Sampson is noted as a film historian.He wrote the book and made documentary films which he produced. The books were “Blacks in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films,” which examines often overlooked African American film makers from the first half of the 20th Century. In addition he authored “The Ghost Walks: A Chronological History of Blacks in Show Business, 1865-1910.” Dr. Sampson also published “Singing’ on the Ether Waves: a Chronological History of African Americans in Radio and Television Programming, 1925-1955”.

In 2011 Dr. Sampson donated his considerable collection of historical film memorabilia to Jackson State University in Jackson Mississippi. The Dr. Henry T. Sampson Jr. Collection of African American Culture is housed in the H.T. Sampson Library, named for his father, H. T. Sampson Sr., former executive dean of Jackson State University.

He is associated with the Board of Directors of Los Angeles Southwest College Foundation and is a technical consultant to the Historical Black Colleges and Universities Program

I will not agree with the bios designating Dr. Sampson as the inventor of the cell phone. To date and in history it has been John F. Mitchell. They have been inventors from the past who have made contributions to the study and advancement for the cell phone to be operative and as an international communication device. Dr. Sampson Gamma-Electrical cell is way much more surpasses the cell phone. A generation would like to believe by misconceptions that he did invent the cell phone but to the truth of the matter he is satisfied with his invention and recognition.

Dr. Sampson is a respected scientist and well recognized for his contributions to the field. He has never come forward at any given time and stated that he is the inventor. He has always tried to open the minds of the African American generation by educational programs. He is a true leader and in his owns way an activist. He will and would not take credit for any invention he was not involved in or created on his own. He is proud of his race and what he has done and he is written permanently in history for the generations past, present and for the future to learn and as he did be a role model.

To date Dr. Henry T. Sampson Jr. Is living and being an inspiration to all. His mother Ester Ellis Sampson passed away at the age of 99. She is laid to rest at Garden Central Park.


As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in one of his quotes, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

One of MIE NS quotes, “Knowledge is the key to understanding which brings forth the patience and passion to have the vision to execute with the best integrity to benefit all”.

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