turbofan engine small enough to be worn like a backpack, the U.S. Department of Defense was persuaded that this same technology could make long-range cruise missiles possible.
Sam pursued his lifelong dream of making jet travel safe, convenient, and affordable, and his team certified its first man-rated turbofan engine, the FJ44-1, in 1992. By 2010 more than 4,000 FJ44 engines had entered service, powering a new class of cleaner, quieter, more affordable light jets.
Sam’s role in creating new technologies earned him and his team four of the highest awards in aerospace—the Collier Trophy, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the National Medal of Technology, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Sam could see things others couldn’t—simpler solutions, the flow of air, a future of small jet planes. His gift for the unseen was great. Maybe this gift was compensation for his poor eyesight or maybe it just reflected his creative mind. But whatever its source, there was no disputing his vision, because Sam had the drive to realize the things he imagined. His legacy included revolutionary products, 72 patents, and a continuous quest for the next invention.
Dr. Williams also applied his gift for innovation to the many charities he supported, especially through his promotion of inventors and inventions in medical research for cancer and degenerative eye diseases—one of the most notable being his cofounding of Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., which developed and is now producing the world’s first visual prosthetic device, or “bionic eye.”
Sam Williams is survived by his wife of 54 years, Barbara Gibson Williams, two sons and a daughter, and three grandchildren. His son Gregg, who had been president and chief executive officer of Williams International for many years, assumed the title of chairman after his father’s death.