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Memorial Tributes, Volume 12
JOHN WISTAR SIMPSON 1914–2007
Elected in 1966
“For nuclear power”
BY WILLIAM HOWARD ARNOLD
JOHN SIMPSON, a pioneer in the application of nuclear energy to naval propulsion, electric-power generation, and space propulsion, died on January 4, 2007, at the age of 92. He was elected to NAE in 1966, just two years after its creation. He joined Westinghouse Electric Corporation as a junior engineer in 1937 and retired as executive vice president and president of the Power Systems Company, one of its four main groups, in 1977. He remained active in business, professional, and community affairs until his death.
John Wistar Simpson was born in Glenn Springs, South Carolina, on September 25, 1914, to Richard and Mary Randolph Spotswood Berkeley Simpson. As a boy and young man he was fascinated with both science and the military. In 1932, he attended Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. At the same time, he applied for an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1933, he enlisted in the Marines and had just completed basic training when he was accepted to Annapolis. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1937, but was denied a commission because of poor eyesight.
In that same year, John joined Westinghouse Electric Corporation at its East Pittsburgh plant and worked in the switch-gear division. He also began studies at the University of Pittsburgh, which led to an M.S. in electrical engineering in 1941. In the naval buildup leading to U.S. participation in World War