Henry Sampson
Tech History

Henry Sampson – Black History Month

My next pioneer is Henry Sampson, we honor a great pioneer we lost in January 2018. Sampson was a great inventor, whose gamma-electrical cell made it possible to wirelessly send and receive audio signals through radio waves that was a vital component to the growth of cellular phone usage.


Sampson graduated from Lanier High School and then attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, before transferring to Purdue University (my alma mater!), where he received his bachelor’s degree in science. He graduated with a MS degree in engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. Sampson also received an MS and PhD in Nuclear Engineering from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His first feat was when he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering in the United States.

Career and Accomplishments

After earning his B.S. degree in chemical engineering, he was a research engineer with the U.S. Naval Weapons Center, as well as become a project engineer with the Aerospace Corporation after receiving his PhD. He was later appointed Director of Planning and Operations for the Aerospace Corporation (1981 -1987), where his research team focused on the powering and launching of satellites.

Sampson was an incredible inventor who held several U.S. patents. Notably, in 1971, he co-invented the Gamma-Electric cell with George H. Miley, which converted high radiation energy (gamma rays) to electricity. Due to his co-invention, Sampson is cited as the inventor of the cell phone. Sampson also holds several other patents focusing on the development of rocket propellants (fuels). In 1973, he invented an improved process of case bonding of propellant grains within a rocket chamber. Other patents include a binder system for rocket propellants and explosives and a case-bonding system for cast-composite rocket propellants.


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