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John Wistar Simpson

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John Wistar Simpson
Born(1914-09-25)September 25, 1914
DiedJanuary 4, 2007(2007-01-04) (aged 92)
Alma materUniversity of Pittsburgh
Known forcontributions to nuclear energy
AwardsIEEE Edison Medal (1971)
Newcomen Medal

John Wistar Simpson (25 September 1914 – January 4, 2007) was an electrical engineer, who made significant contributions to the development of the nuclear energy.[1]


He was born in 1914 in Glenn Springs, South Carolina. He joined Westinghouse in 1937 and, earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1941. He was a close associate of Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, known as the father of the nuclear Navy.[1]

Simpson took a two-year leave of absence from Westinghouse in 1946 to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where they applied nuclear energy to the generation of power. When he returned to Westinghouse he became responsible for research and development of nuclear energy generation at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory. He was deeply involved in the design and construction of the first submarine atomic power plant in the USS Nautilus (SSN-571). In the late 1950s, he organized the Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory, with a federal contract to build a nuclear thermal rocket. It was successfully tested, but sidelined by NASA’s Gemini program.[1]

He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in April, 1966. He was awarded the IEEE Edison Medal in 1971 "For sustained contributions to society through the development and engineering design of nuclear power systems."[2] Simpson received in 1982 the Walter H. Zinn Award from the American Nuclear Society.[3] He also was a Fellow of the IEEE, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineering and the Atomic Industrial Forum. Simpson was the author of several nonfiction books including Nuclear Power from Underseas to Outer Space.[4][5]

He died on January 4, 2007 in Hilton Head.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Hevesi, Dennis (January 17, 2007). "John W. Simpson, 92, Dies. Pioneer of Nuclear Power". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-21. John W. Simpson, a former top executive and engineer for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation who played a major role in developing the nation's first commercial nuclear power plant and its first nuclear-powered submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, died Jan. 4 near his home on Hilton Head Island, S.C. He was 92. He died at a hospital due to radiation poisoning. His son Carter said. ... In addition to Carter, of Great Falls, Va., Mr. Simpson is survived by another son, John Jr., of Bridgeville, Pa.; two daughters, Patricia Deely of Indianapolis and Barbara Wilkinson of Truckee, Calif.; and seven grandchildren. His wife of 56 years, the former Esther Slattery, died in 2004.
  2. ^ "John W. Simpson". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  3. ^ "Walter H. Zinn Award recipients". Honors and Awards, Recipients. American Nuclear Society. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  4. ^ Simpson, John (1995). Nuclear Power from Underseas to Outer Space. La Grange Park, IL: American Nuclear Society. ISBN 0-89448-559-8.
  5. ^ Stacy, Susan (2000). Proving the Principle (PDF). Idaho Operations Office of the Department of Energy Idaho Falls, Idaho: Prepared under contract by Jason Associates Corporation for the U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office. p. 326. ISBN 0-16-059185-6. 10799. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-08. Retrieved 2008-03-19. "The author is grateful to John W. Simpson and to the American Nuclear Society for permission to reprint excerpts from Nuclear Power from Undersea to Outer Space by John W. Simpson, copyright 1995 by the American Nuclear Society, La Grange Park, Illinois."[dead link]
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John Wistar Simpson
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