Dr. Sparks grew up in Colorado and Texas. He attended Rice University, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees in Chemistry. Dr. Sparks then earned his Ph.D in Physical Chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1943.
Upon receiving his doctoral degree, Dr. Sparks joined Bell Labs, where he worked on electrical storage experiments and various wartime projects. In 1947, the transistor was invented. Sparks contributed to the development of the microwatt bipolar junction transistor. This invention made transistors available for everyday use.
In 1972, Dr. Sparks became president of Sandia National Laboratories, and remained there until 1981. Dr. Sparks then became the dean of the Robert O. Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.