Aerospace scientist Isaiah Blankson was born on September 28, 1944 in Cape Coast, Ghana. He received his B.S. degree in 1969, M.S. degree in 1970, and Ph.D. degree in 1973, each in aeronautics and astronautics, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1982, Blankson joined General Electric Corporate Research Center (GRC), in Schenectady, New York, where he conducted research on hypervelocity plasma-armature projectile launchers, and gas-dynamic circuit breakers. He went on to join NASA as program director of the Generic Hypersonics program, in 1988, and was named deputy director of Hypersonics Research Division, at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 1991. He was promoted to senior technologist in the Hypersonics division at NASA Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, Ohio in 1997. Blankson’s pioneering work advanced the state of the art air breathing hypersonic wave riders, and aircraft-engine concepts. Blankson conducted research on non-equilibrium weakly-ionized plasmas and magneto hydrodynamics (MHD), plasma discharges in dielectric liquids, and magnetic suspension systems.
In 1998, Blankson, an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, served as the U.S. national delegate to the NATO Research and Technology Organization’s Working Group on Hypersonic Vehicle Technology. During his career, he as worked to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers, especially underrepresented minorities, by aiding the building of research programs. He led the formation of the NASA-sponsored Center for Aero propulsion at Hampton University, and the NASA Center of Excellence at North Carolina A&T State University, serving as technical monitor and advisor.
At NASA, his contributions to the development of concepts for high-speed air breathing propulsion resulted in many awards and patents. Included on the list of patents: the Exoskeletal Gas-Turbine Engine (U.S. patent 6,393,831-B1, 2002), and the Magneto-Hydrodynamic Power (MHD) Controlled Gas Turbine (U.S. patent 6,696,774-B1, 2004). In addition, he co-developed a Method for Weakening Shockwave Strength on Vehicles in Supersonic Atmospheric Flight (2015, US Patent 9,016,632 B1).
Blankson has received numerous awards, including the 1969 Luis de Florez Award for excellence in engineering from MIT, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 2002, National Emerald Honors Scientist of the Year Award in 2006, two Presidential Rank Awards: The 2012 Distinguished Senior Professional Award, and the 2006 Meritorious Senior Professional Award. In 2018, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal in recognition of his development of Nonequilibrium Plasma technology for aerospace and terrestrial applications.
Isaiah Blankson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 26, 2018.