Berkeley Lab Research News


Pioneering African-American Physicist Warren Henry To Be Honored

How to Receive Future News Releases
Contact: Ron Kolb,

September 18, 1997

BERKELEY, CA -- Physicist Warren E. Henry, whose nearly seven decades of work in the fields of magnetism and superconductivity have earned him praise as one of the most eminent African-American scientists in this nation's history, will be honored with an all-day symposium at Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

On Friday, September 19, dozens of his former students, colleagues and professional admirers will descend on Berkeley Lab, which is sponsoring the tribute, and Henry himself -- now 88 years old -- will hear testimonials to his productive life and career. The proceedings will be assembled and published.

The symposium, entitled "The Importance of Magnetism in Physics and Material Science," is open to the public at no charge on a space-available basis. All lectures will be presented at Berkeley Lab's Building 66 Auditorium, beginning at 9 a.m.

The tribute idea was an outgrowth of this year's National Society of Black Physicists conference, held in Berkeley last March, according to Hattie Carwell, Operations Head at the Department of Energy's Berkeley Site Office. A health physicist, Carwell said she was concerned that Henry's achievements were not generally appreciated within the scientific community, "and it seemed a shame people wouldn't be aware of his prominence and eminence."

Hence the day-long honor for a scientist, educator and inventor who grew up in Alabama as a colleague of George Washington Carver and whose science career took him through top-secret radar research during World War II at the MIT Radiation Laboratory (1943-46) and guidance systems design for missile detection in submarines at Lockheed (1960-69) . During this period he also worked at UC Berkeley as a guest investigator at the Giauque Lab under the auspices of Glenn Seaborg. Within his broad and diverse portfolio was a period teaching special physics courses to young officers of the Army Air Corps who became famous as the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.

A professor emeritus at Howard University, Henry spent significant periods of his career at the University of Chicago, and on the faculty at Morehouse College, Spelman College, Tuskegee Institute and Howard University. He retired in 1977, but Henry continues involvement with a program called Minorities Access to Research Careers (MARC), which encourages third and fourth-year college students to be members of scientific teams.

Henry has been a scholar, researcher and author of considerable note ("Ebony" Magazine wrote in the 1950s that "his research and knowledge of materials at extremely low temperatures is probably unsurpassed in the U.S."). His graph on paramagnetism ("Halliday and Resnick Electricity and Magnetism") has been a physics textbook standard in this country for years. He has written or contributed to hundreds of scientific articles and co-authored the 1934 book, "Procedures in Elementary Qualitative Chemical Analysis."

He earned his bachelor's degree from Tuskegee Institute in 1931, his master's from Atlanta University in 1937, and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1941.

It is rare that a scientist receives the adulation of his peers through testimonials at a symposium, and Berkeley's celebration will be Henry's second -- in 1988, he was feted with "Magnetic Phenomena: the Warren E. Henry Symposium on Magnetism, in Commemoration of His 80th Birthday and His Work in Magnetism" in Washington, D.C.

Berkeley Lab Nobel Laureate Glenn T. Seaborg will be among those making remarks at the 1997 symposium, following welcomes from Laboratory Deputy Director Pier Oddone and Department of Energy Oakland Operations Office Director James Turner.

Speakers will include Physics Professors James Gates of the University of Maryland, Vladimir Kresin of Berkeley Lab and Arthur Thorpe of Howard University, who will address the various disciplines that Henry influenced in his career. Former Henry students Matthew Ware of Grambling State University and Eleanor Franklin of Howard University will reflect on his teaching experiences. Former colleagues George Ferguson of the Naval Weapons Laboratory and Emory Curtis of Lockheed will address Henry's technical contributions. William Holton, Historian for the national organization for the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., will discuss Henry's experience with that group.

An afternoon panel featuring Ferguson, Franklin, Curtis, Thorpe, Holton, UC Berkeley professor emeritus Harry Morrison and Zolili Ndlela, an ex-Henry student and now faculty member at Sacramento State University, will provide additional perspectives on Henry's career. Later, a dinner featuring an address by Ronald Mickens, a mathematical physicist from Clark Atlanta University and Historian for the National Society of Black Physicists, will conclude the program at the Faculty Club at UC Berkeley.

Search | Home | Questions