- Paul MacCready
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caption = AeroVironment Chairman Paul MacCready shows a cross section of the AeroVironment/NASA Helios Prototype wing spar.
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September 25, 1925
August 28, 2007
Paul B. MacCready, Jr. (
September 25, 1925- August 28, 2007) was an American aeronautical engineer. He was the founder of AeroVironmentand the inventor of the first practical flying machine powered by a human being. He devoted his life to developing more efficient transportation vehicles that could "Do more with less".
New Havento a medical family, MacCready was an inventor from an early age and won a national contest building a model flying machine at the age of 15.
MacCready graduated from
Hopkins Schoolin 1943, received his bachelor's degreein physics from Yale Universityin 1947, a master's degreein physics from Caltechin 1948, and a PhDin aeronautics from Caltech in 1952. He trained as a US Navypilot at the end of World War II. In 1951 MacCready founded his first company, Meteorology Research Inc, to do atmospheric research. Some of MacCready's work as a graduate student involved cloud seeding.
glidingafter World War II and was a three-time winner (1948, 1949, 1953) of the Richard C. du Pont Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the U.S. National Open Class Soaring Champion. In 1956 he became the first American pilot to become the World Soaring Champion. He devised the MacCready Theory on the correct speed to flya gliderdepending on conditions and based on the glider's rate of sink at different air-speeds. Glider pilots still use the "MacCready speed ring".
With Dr. Peter B.S. Lissaman he created the first practical human-powered aircraft, the "
Gossamer Condor", and thereby won the Kremer prizein 1977. The award-winning plane was built out of piano wire, bicycle parts, and mylar. In 1979, he built its successor, the " Gossamer Albatross", which won the second Kremer prize for successfully flying from Englandto France.
He later created
solar powered aircraft such as the " Gossamer Penguin" and the " Solar Challenger". He was involved in the development of NASA's solar-powered flying wings such as the Helios, which surpassed the SR-71's altitude records and could theoretically fly on Mars (where the atmosphere is thin and has little oxygen). MacCready also collaborated with General Motors on the design of the Sunraycer, a solar powered car, and then on the EV-1electric car.
In 1985 he was commissioned to build a life-size, flying replica of a
pterodactylfor the Smithsonian Institute. The completed remote-controlled flying reptile was filmed over Death Valley, California in 1986 for the Smithsonian's IMAX film "On the Wing."
MacCready helped to sponsor the Nissan Dempsey/MacCready Prize which has helped to motivate developments in racing-bicycle technology, applying aerodynamics and new materials to allow for faster human-powered vehicles.
He was the founder (in 1971) and Chairman of
AeroVironmentInc., a public company (AVAV) that develops unmanned surveillance aircraft and advance power systems. AV recently flew the first airplane powered by hydrogen fuel cells, the Global Observer.
MacCready died on
August 28, 2007from brain cancer [ [http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-09-05.html Skeptic: eSkeptic: Wednesday, September 5th, 2007 ] ] .
Awards and honors
*Induction to the U.S.
Soaring Hall of Fame, 1954
Otto LilienthalMedal of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, 1956 ("for his decisive victory in earning the title of World Soaring Champion in 1956")
California Institute of Technology, Distinguished Alumni Award, 1978,
Collier Trophy, 1979, by the National Aeronautics Association("awarded annually for the greatest achievement in Aeronautics and Astronautics in America")
*Reed Aeronautical Award, 1979, by the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics("the most notable achievement in the field of aeronautical science and engineering")
Edward LongstrethMedal, 1979, by the Franklin Institute
*Engineer of the Century Gold Medal, 1980, by the
American Society of Mechanical Engineers;
Spirit of St. LouisMedal, 1980
*Inventor of the Year Award, 1981, by the
Association for the Advancement of Invention and Innovation
*Klemperer Award, 1981,
Organisation Scientifique et Technique du Vol à Voile, Paderborn, Germany
I.B. LaskowitzAward, 1981, New York Academy of Science
*The Lindbergh Award, 1982, by the Lindbergh Foundation ("to a person who contributes significantly to achieving a balance between technology and the environment")
*Golden Plate Award, 1982, of the
American Academy of Achievement
*Gold Air Medal, of the
Federation Aeronautique Internationale
*Distinguished Service Award, of the
Federal Aviation Administration
*Public Service Grand Achievement Award, of
*Frontiers of Science and Technology Award, 1986, first award in this category given by the
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
*The "Lipper Award", 1986, for outstanding contribution to creativity, by the O-M Association (
Odyssey of the Mind)
*Guggenheim Medal, 1987, jointly by the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Society of Automotive Engineers, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
National Air and Space MuseumTrophy for Current Achievement, 1988
*Enshrinement in The
National Aviation Hall of Fame, July 1991, Dayton, Ohio
Edward N. ColeAward for Automotive Engineering Innovation, September 1991
*Scientist of the Year, 1992 ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists), San Diego Chapter
*Pioneer of Invention, 1992,
United Inventors Association
Chrysler Design Awardfor Innovation in Design, 1993
*Honorary Member designation,
American Meteorological Society, 1995
American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Ralph Coats RoeMedal, November 1998
Howard HughesMemorial Award, Aero Club of Southern California, January 1999
Calstart's 1998 Blue Sky Merit Award, February 1999
National Convention of the Soaring Society of America, dedicated to Paul MacCready, Feb. 1999
*Special Achievement Award, "
Design News", March 1999
*Included in "
Time" magazine's "The Century's Greatest Minds" (March 29, 1999) series "on the 100 most influential people of the century"
*Lifetime Achievement "
Aviation Week" Laureate Award, April 1999
Palaustamp, 1 of 16 "Environmental Heroes of the 20th Century", Jan. 2000
Institute for the Advancement of Engineering William B. JohnsonMemorial Award, Feb. 2000
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, National Design Award – Product Design, Nov. 2000
Hoyt Clarke HottelAward, American Solar Energy Society, April 24, 2001 ("lifetime achievement as an inventor, specifically for inventing the world's first two solar-powered aircraft")
*2001 World Technology Award for Energy,
England, July 2001
Alvaro de Orleans BorbonFund, First Annual Award, October 2001, from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, Switzerland
*The 2002 Walker Prize,
Museum of Science, Boston, March, 2002
*International von Karman Wings Award,
Aerospace Historical Society, May 2002
Washington & Jefferson College, May 2007
* [http://timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article2409565.ece "The Times" obituary]
* [http://www.avinc.com/Dr.MacCready_bio.asp Obituary]
* [http://www.avinc.com/dr.maccready.asp Condolences]
* [http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/mac0bio-1 Biography]
* [http://web.mit.edu/invent/www/ima/maccready_bio.html Perseverance: Paul MacCready] . Short biography from
MIT Press. Text adapted from "Inventing Modern America."
* [http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/176 Video of Paul MacCready talking at TED]
* [http://www.adventurersclub.org/Slenderest_Threads.htm MacCready reflects on being stuck and rescued from the side of a cliff in 1993]
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