Keith Henson

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Keith Henson
Keith Henson.jpg
Keith Henson
Born1942 (age 80–81)
United States
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Arizona, electrical engineering
Known forL5 Society, founding member
National Space Society, lifetime member
Scientific career
Fieldselectrical engineer, life extension, cryonics, memetics, Evolutionary psychology

Howard Keith Henson (born 1942) is an American electrical engineer and writer. Henson writes on subjects including space engineering, space law (Moon treaty), memetics, cryonics, evolutionary psychology, and the physical limitations of Transhumanism. In 1975, Henson founded the L5 Society with his then-wife Carolyn Meinel to promote space colonization. In 1987 the L5 Society merged with the National Space Institute to form the National Space Society.

Early influences

Henson was raised in a military family and he attended seven schools before 7th grade. His father, Lt. Col. Howard W. Henson (1909–2001), was a decorated (Bronze Star and Legion of Merit) US Army officer who spent much of his career in Army Intelligence. The science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein heavily influenced his early life.[1] Henson graduated from Prescott High School shortly after his father retired, before attending the University of Arizona and receiving a degree in electrical engineering.[2][3]


During most of his time at university, Henson worked at a geophysics company and mostly ran induced polarization surveys in the western US and Peru. He also programmed geophysical type cases and wrote data reduction programs for the company.[4]

Druid prank

Henson was known at the University of Arizona as one of the founders of the Druid Student Center, where a campus humor newspaper, The Frumious Bandersnatch[5] was published in the late 1960s. He cited an incident while he was a student as a good example of memetic replication. When someone asked him to fill in a form which required him to disclose his religious affiliations he wrote Druid. His prank was soon noticed by other students and before long almost 20% of the student body had registered themselves as Reform Druids, Orthodox Druids, Members of the Church of the nth Druid, Zen Druids, Latter-Day Druids and so on. The university was forced to remove the religious affiliation question.[6]

Analog engineering

After graduation, Henson went to work for Burr-Brown Research, now merged into Texas Instruments, in Tucson, Arizona. He worked on extremely low distortion quadrature oscillators and nonlinear function modules (multipliers, vector adders and root-mean-square). His first patent was a design for a 4-quadrant log-antilog multiplier. He claims to have been fired from an unnamed company in 1972 for refusing to certify an electronic module for a nuclear power plant that failed to meet a required MTBF specification.[7] Henson set up his own company, Analog Precision Inc., to produce specialized computer interface equipment and related industrial control devices.[8][9]

Henson married his first wife, Carolyn Meinel, in 1967[10] and divorced in 1981.[8]

L5 Society

In 1974, Henson's occasional rock climbing partner, physicist Dr. Dan Jones,[11] introduced him to the space colonization work of Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill from Princeton University. To promote these ideas, Henson and Meinel founded the L5 Society in 1975.[12][13]

Henson co-wrote papers for three Space Manufacturing conferences at Princeton. The 1977 and 1979 papers were co-authored with Eric Drexler. Patents were issued on both subjects—vapor phase fabrication and space radiators.[14]

In 1980, Henson testified before the United States Congress when the L5 Society successfully opposed the Moon Treaty. The society was represented by Leigh Ratiner. The experience eventually became an article, Star Laws, jointly written by Henson and Arel Lucas and published in Reason Magazine.[15] Timothy Leary was influenced by Henson's work-and credited him in publications when he referred to Space Migration and Life Extension.


In 1985, Henson, his wife, and their two-year-old daughter signed up with Alcor for cryonic suspension after being convinced by Eric Drexler that nanotechnology provided a method to make it work. Henson's daughter is the youngest member to sign up to Alcor.[16] Following the Dora Kent problems,[17] Henson became increasingly active with Alcor. After Alcor froze their chief surgeon, he learned enough surgery to put several cryonics patients on cardiac bypass.[18] He also wrote a column for Alcor's magazine, Cryonics, for a few years.[19] Henson persuaded Timothy Leary to become an Alcor member, though Leary eventually dropped his membership.

In that same year, Henson moved to Silicon Valley to consult for a number of firms and debugged garbage collection software for the last stage of Project Xanadu. He was working for the company that bought the Xanadu license when Scientology lawyer Helena Kobrin tried to destroy the news group alt.religion.scientology.[20] and later e-mailed legal warnings to participants who had quoted as few as six lines of Scientology texts.[21]-->


Henson's wife, Arel Lucas, was credited by Douglas Hofstadter in Metamagical Themas for suggesting that the study of memes be called memetics. Henson wrote two articles on memes in 1987, one published in Analog and the other, Memes, Meta Memes and Politics, circulated on the internet before being printed.[22]

Richard Dawkins, who created the concept of memes, approvingly cites Henson's coining of the neologism memeoids to refer to "victims who have been taken over by a meme to the extent that their own survival becomes inconsequential" in the second edition of his book The Selfish Gene. [23]


Henson is one of the focal points of the ongoing struggle between the Church of Scientology and its critics, often referred to as Scientology versus the Internet. Henson entered the Scientology conflict when it was at its most heated in the mid-1990s. In 1996, many of Scientology's secret writings were released onto the Internet, and the Church of Scientology embarked on a massive worldwide campaign to keep them from being spread to the general public. Henson examined these writings, entitled New Era Dianetics (NOTS), and from his examination of these secret documents, said that Scientology was committing medical fraud.[24] The NOTS documents, he said, contained detailed instructions for the treatment of physical ailments and illnesses through the use of Scientology practices. The Supreme Court decision in 1971 had declared that Scientology's writings were meant for "purely spiritual" purposes, and all Scientology books published since then have included disclaimers stating that Scientology's E-meter device "does nothing" and does not cure any physical ailments.[25] The NOTS procedures, Henson claimed, were a violation of this decision. To prove his claim, Henson posted two pages from the NOTS documents onto the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology.[24][26]

The Church of Scientology immediately initiated legal action, but Henson did not retract his claims. He was served with a lawsuit by the church's legal arm, the Religious Technology Center, (RTC). Henson defended himself. After a lengthy court battle involving massive amounts of paperwork, Henson was found guilty of copyright infringement. He was ordered to pay $75,000 in fines.[24][26][27] Henson declared bankruptcy in response to the judgment. Henson began protesting Scientology regularly, standing outside Scientology's Gold Base, with a picket sign. The organization sought to obtain a restraining order, which failed.[24][27][28]

As a result of this conflict, Henson was charged with three misdemeanors under California Law: making criminal threats (California Penal Code section 422), attempting to make criminal threats (California Penal Code section 422, charged pursuant to Penal Code 664, the "general attempt" statute), and threatening to interfere with freedom to enjoy a constitutional privilege.[29] Sheriff's Detective Tony Greer, Riverside County lead investigator, said: "In reviewing all of the Internet postings I did not see any direct threat of violence towards the church or any personnel of the church."[24]

The jury verdict of the trial resulted in Henson being convicted of one of the three charges: "interfering with a religion." This misdemeanor charge carried a prison term of six months. On the other two charges, the jury did not agree.[30] Ken Hoden, the general manager of Golden Era Productions (the Church of Scientology's film production facility), claimed that Scientology's allegations against Henson had nothing to do with Scientology Fair Game policy, and that no such policy existed.[24]

Henson stated his belief that if he went to prison, his life would be placed in jeopardy.[31] Rather than serve his sentence, Henson chose to enter Canada and apply for political asylum. Henson lived quietly in Brantford for three years while he awaited the decision. His request was ultimately denied and, in 2005, he was ordered to present himself for deportation and transfer to US authorities. Instead, Henson fled to the United States and later presented himself to the Canadian consulate in Detroit. Then he settled in Prescott, Arizona where he remained for two years until his arrest in 2007 by Arizona authorities.[32]

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as Henson's supporters on the USENET newsgroup alt.religion.scientology, say that his trial was biased, unfair and a mockery of justice.[33] Henson was prohibited by the trial judge, for example, from arguing that copying documents for the purpose of criticism is fair use.[34][citation needed] Henson's location as of February 3, 2007 was the Yavapai Detention Center in Prescott, Arizona, awaiting possible extradition to Riverside County, California. At the "initial appearance" hearing on February 5, 2007, Henson stated through counsel[35][36] that he was fighting extradition and requested release.

Judge Lindberg[37] set a court date for March 5, 2007 in the Prescott Justice Court[38] and set release at $7,500 cash or bond, with standard conditions. Henson's release on bond was secured.[39] In spite of these distractions, Henson finished a space elevator presentation for a European Space Agency conference. The paper was presented by proxy on February 28, 2007.[40]

The extradition hearing for Henson was postponed to May 8, 2007, at the request of Henson's attorney and the County attorney.[41] At his release from jail, Henson was handed paper work from Riverside County, including a warrant from September 15, 2000.[42] At the May 8, 2007 hearing, Henson was presented with an arrest warrant, and returned to jail.[43][44] In 2007, Henson was jailed in Riverside, California for "using threats of force to interfere with another's exercise of civil rights".[45] He was released in early September 2007.

Energy systems

From 2007 on, Henson worked independently and with others on the problems of global energy supply and affordable cost, particularly on power satellites for space-based solar power. There he was particularly concerned with launch cost, system mass, waste heat, heat radiators, and economics.

The power satellite work was reported in a series of articles starting with two posted on The Oil Drum[46][47] and three presented at IEEE SusTech conferences for Sustainable Technology. Henson also was involved in producing videos about thermal power satellites[48] and beamed energy propulsion[49] the latter of which won an award in an international competition. (See Online Journal of Space Communication, Issue No. 18 under Works, below.)

A shorter version was shown at the White House in the last days of the Obama Administration by Lt. Col. Peter Garretson and Dr. Paul Jaffe as part of the D3 government-wide contest.[50][51]

Additionally, he worked over a year for Ed Kelly on StratoSolar[52] when it seemed possible that high altitude lighter-than-air StratoSolar could beat the projected cost of power satellites.

Henson visited Reaction Engines in the UK twice: in 2012 on the way back from a power satellite presentation in Germany ("Economic feedback for low-cost solar energy from space") and in 2016 when he gave a two-hour presentation to the engineering department of Reaction Engines.[53] The latter, plus other, later discussions set the rate of expansion for producing Skylon rocket planes used in the power satellite business cases.

In early 2015, Henson created the Google group Power Satellite Economics where various concerned citizens and experts from various fields can discuss the complexities and benefits of power satellites and related work.[54]



  1. ^ R. U. Sirius [1]
  2. ^ Michael A. G. Michaud, Reaching for the High Frontier, Out of the desert Archived December 10, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Praeger Publishers, 1986.
  3. ^ Ed Regis, Great mambo chicken and the transhuman condition, science slightly over the edge, Westview Press, 1991, p. 47, p. 188.
  4. ^ "Theoretical Induced Polarization and Resistivity Response for the Dual Frequency System Collinear Dipole-dipole Array: Volume 1 & 2. By Chris S Ludwig, H Keith Henson, Heinrichs Geoexploration Company Published by Heinrichs Geoexploration Co., 1967"
  5. ^ "Google Groups".
  6. ^ Nadin, Mihai. The Civilization of Illiteracy, p. 407. DUP, 1997. ISBN 3-931828-38-7
  7. ^ The JOURNAL of GEOETHICAL NANOTECHNOLOGY Archived January 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Terasem Journals Volume 2, Issue 2, 1st Quarter, 2007, Bio of Keith Henson
  8. ^ a b "Reaching for the High Frontier: Chapter 5|National Space Society". Archived from the original on December 10, 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
  9. ^ Declaration of H. Keith Henson, HILARY DEZOTELL, KEN HODEN, and BRUCE WAGONER, Plaintiff/Respondent, vs KEITH HENSON, Defendant/Appellant, Appellate No. 00338, Case No. HEC009673 Riverside Superior Court Appeals Division, Riverside, California, January 21, 2003 copy at [2], see Attachment A, Background and timelines for H. Keith Henson.
  10. ^ Interview with Carolyn Meinel
  11. ^ Giving to New Mexico Tech Archived January 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, retrieved 10-27-07.
  12. ^ Regis, Ed. The Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly Over the Edge. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. ISBN 0-201-56751-2
  13. ^ Mark, Hans. The Space Station: A Personal Journey, p. 54. Duke University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8223-0727-8
  14. ^ Henson, H.K., and K.E. Drexler. (1988) "Heterodensity heat transfer apparatus and method" U.S. Patent Office: #4,759,404 Henson, H.K., and K.E. Drexler. (1984) "Method for processing and fabricating metals in space" U.S. Patent Office: #4,480,677
  15. ^ post
  16. ^ Regis, Ed (1991). Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly Over The Edge. Westview Press. pp. 104–105. ISBN 0-201-56751-2.
  17. ^ Dora Kent: Questions and Answers, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Excerpted from Cryonics, March 1988
  18. ^ "Cryonics 'wet work'", message posted by Keith Henson on the newsgroup sci.cryonics, 1993-15-Jan.
  19. ^ "Future Tech". Cryonics. 13 (12): 7–8. December 1992.
  20. ^ Grossman, Wendy (October 1997) [1997]. "Copyright Terrorists". Net.Wars. New York: New York University Press. pp. 77–78. ISBN 0-8147-3103-1. Retrieved June 11, 2006.
  21. ^ Prendergast, Alan (October 4, 1995). "Stalking the Net". Westword. Village Voice Media. Retrieved March 28, 2007.
  22. ^ "The Selfish Meme". Time. April 19, 1999. Archived from the original on February 16, 2008.
  23. ^ Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene, p.330. Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-19-286092-5
  24. ^ a b c d e f Gale Holland (June 20, 2001). "Unfair Game: Scientologists Get Their Man". LA Weekly. Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
  25. ^ United States v. Founding Church of Scientology et al., F. Supp. 357 District of Columbia 333 (US District Court July 30, 1971).
  26. ^ a b Bryan, Judy (May 18, 1998). "Scientology Slips Through the Net". Wired. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
  27. ^ a b Morgan, Lucy (March 29, 1999). "At home: Critics public and private keep pressure on Scientology". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
  28. ^ Thurston, Susan (February 21, 1998). "Judge OKs picketing of church". The Press-Enterprise. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
  29. ^ "Conviction of Scientology Critic Raises Free Speech Issue". Electronic Frontier Foundation. June 22, 2001. Archived from the original on February 2, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2007.
  30. ^ Riverside County Superior Court Case Report
  31. ^ Google Groups Archive of posting of Henson's fax where he stated "I am all too aware that going back to the US puts my life in danger."
  32. ^ Gamble, Susan (February 7, 2007). "Man critical of Scientology, who fled Brantford in 2005, is arrested in United States". Brantford Expositor. Retrieved February 10, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ Cohn, Cindy (December 24, 2008). "Keith Henson Appeal: Time to Undo an Injustice". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  34. ^ "EFFector". Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  35. ^ "Michael Kielsky — Archived Campaign Site – No Victim, No Crime, No Time, No Fine!".
  36. ^ Invoking Rights Pursuant To A.R.S. §§ 13-3580, 13–3856 Archived June 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ "Superior Court - Division VI". September 28, 2007. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007.
  38. ^ "Prescott Justice Court". February 14, 2007. Archived from the original on February 14, 2007.
  39. ^ McCullagh, Declan (February 5, 2007). "'Tom Cruise' missile jokester arrested". CNET Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
  40. ^ . April 2, 2007 Archived from the original on April 2, 2007. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ "Prescott Justice Court, Criminal Docket, Case 2007020065J". Archived from the original on January 25, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2007.
  42. ^ "HEM014371 - Case Report - Riverside Criminal & Traffic". Archived from the original on August 8, 2007. Retrieved May 7, 2007.
  43. ^ "Keith Henson Back in Jail – Space Elevator Will Have To Wait – 10 Zen Monkeys".
  44. ^ "Former resident faces extradition over Scientology clash". Palo Alto Daily News. May 20, 2007. Archived from the original on May 24, 2007. Retrieved May 29, 2007.
  45. ^ Zapler, Mike (July 8, 2007). "In jail for protesting Scientology, man seeks pardon". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  46. ^ "The Oil Drum | Solar Satellite Power with Laser Propulsion and Reusable Launch Vehicle".
  47. ^ "The Oil Drum | Space Solar Power – Recent Conceptual Progress".
  48. ^ "Thermal Space Solar Power concept". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021 – via
  49. ^ "Beamed Energy Bootstrapping". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021 – via
  50. ^ "AU".
  51. ^ "Space Based Solar Power - a solution to the carbon crisis". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021 – via
  52. ^ "The Oil Drum | An Idea for Inexpensive Electricity: Concentrated Solar Power 12 Miles above the Earth".
  53. ^ "HTYP" (PDF).
  54. ^ "Google Groups".

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Media/Press mention

External links