Benton C. Clark III

Class of
Benton C. Clark III

Benton C. Clark III


Born and raised in Oklahoma City, Benton C. Clark III developed an early interest in science. At Classen High School he thrived in those studies, while his brother prepared to lead the family jewelry business. At the University of Oklahoma, Clark majored in physics and earned summer internships at Los Alamos and IBM. With a Master of Science from University of California, Berkeley, he served three years in the United States Air Force, designing instruments for space exploration while interacting with astronauts. His pioneering experiment flew on Gemini missions.

With a subsequent doctorate in biophysics from Columbia University, he joined Avco in Tulsa. Then, with Martin aerospace in Denver, his proposed instrument was selected for NASA’s upcoming lander mission to Mars as part of the Viking program. For the first time in history, scientists learned what Mars was made of.

During five decades with Lockheed Martin, Clark rose to chief scientist and director for concepts for deep space exploration. Working with prominent scientists and his team of broad-based engineers to develop designs for innovative new missions for NASA resulted in spacecraft flown to the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter. His group also developed missions that achieved the first-ever robotic returns of samples from a comet, the solar wind, and asteroid Bennu. National and international recognition of Clark includes the Nova, Masursky, Wright Brothers, and Stellar awards. As an octogenarian scientist, he continues to participate in NASA’s Mars rover missions through the Space Science Institute and co-authors books on Astrobiology.

Fun fact

On the historic flight of the Gemini VI space capsule in 1965, astronaut Tom Stafford, also an Oklahoma Hall of Fame Member, operated a radiation monitor system designed by Clark. Neither knew at the time they were both from Oklahoma, and they didn't meet until the induction ceremony into the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame in 2007.

Oklahoma connections

Clark is the grandson and namesake of a pioneer who moved to "Indian Territory" in 1892 to establish B.C. Clark Jewelers. Clarks serves as a member of the board of directors for the company, which is the oldest privately-owned business in Oklahoma.


Oklahoma City


Space Scientist





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