Photo of Sam B. Williams

Sam B. Williams

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Aerospace

For his unequaled achievements as a gifted inventor, tenacious entrepreneur, risk-taker and engineering genius in making the USA number one in small gas turbine engine technology and competitiveness, and for his leadership and vision in revitalizing the U.S. general aviation business jet and trainer jet aircraft industry.

Like so many others, Sam Williams had a dream. But unlike so many people, he was willing to put his future on the line to make it come true. Williams left a secure job at Chrysler to pursue his dream of making jet engines smaller and lighter in order to expand their use.

Decades later, the engines he helped develop have helped power craft ranging from jets to missiles.

Williams, who held a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University, joined Chrysler in 1942 and quickly established himself as an inventor. Twelve years later — working with limited finances — he founded Williams Research Corp. a Michigan-based company, which later became Williams International and pioneered huge advancements in turbine technology and patented a small engine that became the forerunner to those used in modern cruise missiles.

Williams is also remembered for his medical research, including co-founding Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., which developed the world’s first visual prosthetic, known as a “bionic eye,” the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine said in a tribute.

Williams’ work was lauded by three American presidents: Jimmy Carter, who presented him the Collier Trophy; Ronald Reagan, who presented him with the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy; and Bill Clinton, who presented him with the National Medal of Technology. He received an honorary doctorate from Purdue in 1982.

By Robert Warren