Henry Whitehead - From Transistors to Lasers
By Ann Gaudreaux, William & Mary News
Henry Whitehead has spent nearly 31 years repairing and assembling electronic equipment that has been an integral part of scientific and technological research in this country.
An electronic technician, Whitehead began his career in transistors, working with a group representing NASA's Space Radiation Lab, William and Mary, Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. Now at the forefront of technology, he works with the Department of Energy's premiere nuclear physics research lab, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, in Newport News.
"Before I came to the College, I did industrial work and the main concern was the bottom line, not the people," Whitehead said. "At the university, I found a progressive and personal workplace."
When he arrived at the College, his co-workers were technicians who worked on the first microprocessors. "There was lots of new technology to catch up on," he said. "It was the first time I had worked on integrated surfaces, and I got to learn new fields of electronics."
He helped build each of the 40 cryomodules that make up the linear portions of the accelerator. "We were all concerned about how well the accelerator would work," he said. "Our group tested each cryounit and, in 1988, when the first test was successful, we were all very proud."
Although he enjoys working at Jefferson Lab, Whitehead misses the interaction with physics department faculty and staff, especially Dr. Hans von Baeyer.
In 1983, von Baeyer suggested to the Department of Energy that it locate a superconductor in Virginia. While preparing a proposal, von Baeyer asked Whitehead to photograph the location and its facilities and capabilities. Today, Whitehead's pictures are on display at Jefferson Lab.
Whitehead's co-workers describe him as dependable. "I enjoy people," he said. "I also like to spend time alone, but I like to work with the group. Some of us have worked together for a long time. We trust and depend on each other."
Married with three children, Whitehead enjoys sports, art and photography. In 1995, Jefferson Lab's Black History Month Committee awarded him a Special Recognition Award "for his dedication to science and the African-American community."