April 23


Henry T. Thomas Sampson, Jr. (born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1934, died January 10,2018, in Stockton, CA) was an African-American inventor, known for co-creating with George H. Miley the gamma-electric cell a device with the main goal of generating auxiliary power from the shielding of a nuclear reactor.

Henry T. Sampson 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 a MS degree in engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1961.

Sampson also 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.

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.

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 addition to his career as an inventor, Sampson is noted film historian. He wrote the book 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.

Sampson produces documentary films on African-American film makers. In 2005, he published Singin’ on the Ether –Waves: a Chronological History of African Americans in Radio and Television Programming, 1925-1955 (two vols, 1270 pages), Lanham, Maryland, and Oxford, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

In 2011 Sampson donated his considerable collection of historical film memorabilia to Jackson State Uis housed in the H.T. Sampson Library, named for his father, H. T. Sampson Sr., former executive dean of Jackson State University.


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