Thomas Mensah -

Thomas Mensah

Pioneered the Field of Fiber Optics

Thomas Mensah was born in Kumasi, Ghana in 1950. His father, J.K. Mensah, was a businessman who shipped cocoa products to chocolate manufacturers in France. Thomas was an exceptionally bright child, learning to read newspapers at an early age and becoming fluent in French. As a child, he often conversed in French with his father’s business associates. He went on to twice win the National Competition in France in 1968 and 1970.

Thomas received his early education at the exclusive Adisadel College boys school in Cape Coast. An excellent student, particularly in science and math, he received a scholarship to study chemical engineering at the University of Science and Technology Kumasi, Ghana. An honors student, he graduated in 1974 and was awarded a fellowship from the French government to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Science and Technology in Montpelier, France (USTL). While enrolled at USTL, he took part in a program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received a certificate in Modeling and Simulation of Chemical Processes from the university in 1977. A year later, he graduated from USTL with a PhD.



In 1980, Thomas travelled to the United States where he took a job with Air Product and Chemicals in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He was a research engineer in the chemical group division. One of his projects was to observe the mixing process in the Polyvinyl Alcohol Process Improvement Division. The process included injecting PVAC ( a polymer having a high resistance to to flow) with a catalyst. Inside of a thin film reactor which used a moving blade system. The resulting mixture would end up on a moving belt where it would cure into a white slab of Polyvinyl Alcohol, later cut into smaller pieces. A problem occurred when the mixture was of poor quality, as the resulting polyvinyl acetate did not cure properly, resulting in an usable product (and often causing a shutdown of the manufacturing process.

In 1983 he joined Corning Glass Works in Corning, New York as an engineer. He was brought on to help solve efficiency problems in the Corning Fiber Optic manufacturing process. Fiber optics refers to the design and application of optical fiber. Optical fibers refers to glass or plastic fiber through which light travels, usually carrying information. Fiber optics wires (or cables) are more efficient conductors of communication material than metal wire. Unfortunately, at that time it was difficult to increase the production of fiber optical material because the delicate glass fibers would break very easily if the production speed was increased. Thus, in the drawing and coating phase, the process was limited to producing only two meters per second of fiber optic stand.

Mensah saw that during the coating phase, bubbles were being trapped on the coating surface during the curing process. This caused inefficient losses of data. Using his knowledge of boundary layer theory, he solved this problem by injecting carbon dioxide gas near the boundary layer during the high speed coating process. This eliminated the bubbles from forming. He also was able to increase the strength of the glass allowing the manufacturing process to increase to 20 feet per send, a ten-fold improvement. He was awarded patents for each of these improvements along with two other patents for additional work.

Percy Julian

A pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants, including a synthetic form of cortisone

Garrett Morgan

Invented a three-position traffic signal and an early version of a gas mask

Charles Drew

A pioneer in the field of blood transfusions who developed improved techniques for blood storage.

Elijah McCoy

Invented lubrication systems for steam engines. His devices were referred to as “The Real McCoy.”

Daniel Hale Williams

A surgeon who performed what is considered the first successful heart surgery.

In addition to his work with fiber optics, Mensah found success in other areas of science. He has created superconductors for space communication, designed a system for creating solid state rechargeable cell phone batteries, developed new filament wound composite structures to be used to provide a light replacement for tank gun barrels among many other inventions. He would eventually become the Founder of georgia Aerospace which manufactured specialized composite structures for stealth aircraft.

In almost every aspect of his career,Thomas Mensah has met with enormous success on projects that have great historical significance. he has worked for private industry as well as for the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense and has been awarded seven patents. He has also received awards and recognition from the high tech community including the Corning Glass Works Industrial Outstanding Contributor Award for Innovation in Fiber Optics (1985), AT&T Bell Laboratories High Performance Award (1988), and the AIChE William Grimes Award for Excellence in Chemical Engineering (2007). He serves as a great model of turning great ambition into great success.

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Madam C.J. Walker -
Thomas Mensah -

From Dreams Comes Success

Walker remembered that the formula for her hair grower came to her in a dream: “God answered my prayer, for one night I had a dream, and in that dream a big Black man appeared to me and told me what to mix up for my hair. Some of the remedy was grown in Africa, but I sent for it, mixed it, put it on my scalp, and in a few weeks my hair was coming in faster than it had ever fallen out. I tried it on my friends; it helped them. I made up my mind I would begin to sell it.”

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Lewis Latimer

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Garrett Morgan

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Elijah McCoy

Invented lubrication systems for steam engines. His devices were referred to as “The Real McCoy.”