PROFILE: Henry T. Sampson - Director of Planning and Operations Directorate of the Space Test Program, Aerospace Corporation (retired), El Segundo, CA.

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Born in Jackson, Mississippi, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University in 1956. He went on to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he graduated with an MSc degree in engineering in 1961; University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for an MSc in Nuclear Engineering in 1965, and a PhD in 1967.

On July 6th, 1971, Dr. Sampson invented the “gamma-electric cell”, which pertains to nuclear reactor use. According to Dr. Sampson, the Gamma Electric Cell, patented July 6, 1971, Patent No. 3,591,860 produces stable high-voltage output and current to detect radiation in the ground.

Cellular telephony has spawned a multi-billion dollar industry and has freed tens of millions of people, both at home and at work, to communicate anywhere, any time. Many would have thought that he would be on the Times and Forbes magazines next to Bill Gate and Steve Jobs for discovering one of the greatest creations of our time.

Mobile communications took a big step forward in 1983, with the invention of the cellular system regulating the portable telephones, which use radio waves to transmit and receive audio signals. Before this time, mobile telephone service in the United States, consisting mainly of car phones, was extremely limited because metropolitan areas had only one antenna for these purposes.

In addition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assigned only 12 to 24 frequencies to each area, which meant that only that many calls could occur at a time. These limitations often meant a wait of up to 30 minutes for a dial tone and a five to 10-year waiting list just to acquire the service.

With the invention of cellular phone service in 1983, personal communications no longer depended on wires. In the 1990s, it would become possible to connect to the Internet from virtually anywhere in the world using a portable computer and a cellular modem with satellite service.


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.

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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.

His degrees include: 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