Charles Stark Draper

Charles Stark "Doc" Draper (October 2, 1901 – July 25, 1987) was an American scientist and engineer, known as the "father of inertial navigation".[2] He was the founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Instrumentation Laboratory, later renamed the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, which made the Apollo Moon landings possible through the Apollo Guidance Computer it designed for NASA.

Charles Stark Draper[1]
BornOctober 2, 1901
DiedJuly 25, 1987 (aged 85)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Stanford University
AwardsMagellanic Premium (1959)
National Medal of Science (1964)
Daniel Guggenheim Medal (1966)
Rufus Oldenburger Medal (1971)
Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award (1981)
Scientific career
FieldsControl theory
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorPhilip M. Morse

Early life and education

Draper was born in Windsor, Missouri. He attended the University of Missouri in 1917, then transferred to Stanford University, California in 1919, from which he earned a B.A. in psychology in 1922. He matriculated at MIT in 1922, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in electrochemical engineering (1926), and Master of Science (1928), and a Doctor of Science (1938) degrees in physics.[3] Charles Stark Draper's relatives were prominent in his home state of Missouri, including his cousin, Governor Lloyd C. Stark.


Draper began teaching at MIT as an assistant professor. He was appointed a full professor in aeronautical engineering in 1939. It was here that he founded the Instrumentation Laboratory in the 1930s, spun off in 1973 as the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.[4]

Draper's interest in flight instrumentation was influenced by becoming a pilot in the 1930s: although he failed to become an Air Corps pilot, he learned to fly by enrolling in a civilian course.[5] Draper was one of the pioneers of inertial navigation, a technology used in aircraft, space vehicles, and submarines that enables such vehicles to navigate by sensing changes in direction and speed, using gyroscopes, and accelerometers. A pioneering figure in aerospace engineering, he contributed to the Apollo space program with his knowledge of guidance systems.

In 1961 Draper and the Instrumentation Lab were awarded the first contract given out for the Apollo program to send humans to the Moon, which was announced by President John F. Kennedy on 25 May of that year. This led to the creation of the Apollo Guidance Computer, a one-cubic-foot computer that controlled the navigation and guidance of the Lunar Excursion Module to the Moon on nine launches, six of which landed on the Moon's surface.[6]

Draper taught and conducted research at MIT until January 1970, devoting most of his energy during his final decade to completing the Apollo computers and software.[7]

Draper was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1981 for his multiple inventions and scientific contributions.

Professional associations

Draper was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering of the National Academy of Sciences as well as the French Academy of Sciences. He had served as president of the International Academy of Astronautics, and was a member of the American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.[2]


Draper received more than 70 honors and awards, including the Howard N. Potts Medal in 1960, the National Medal of Science from President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964,[8] the ASME's Rufus Oldenburger Medal in 1971,[9] the Robert H. Goddard Trophy in 1978,[10] the AACC's Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award[11] and the Smithsonian's Langley Gold Medal in 1981, and the National Academy of Engineering's Founders Award.[2] His renown was international, and was recognized by many foreign countries, including France, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union.[12]


He died in the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at age 85. He was eulogized as "one of the foremost engineers of our time", and Howard Wesley Johnson, Chairman of the MIT Corporation, credited him for creating a "whole new industry in inertial instruments and systems for airplanes, ships, submarines, missiles, satellites and space vehicles".[13]

Charles Stark Draper Prize

The National Academy of Engineering established the Charles Stark Draper Prize in 1988 on behalf of the namesake's laboratory at MIT. The prize, which is awarded annually and consists of $500,000 in cash, a gold medallion, and a hand-inscribed certificate, aims to "increase public understanding of the contributions of engineering and technology to the welfare and freedom of humanity".[12] Endowment for the prize was provided by the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Dr. Charles S. Draper was elected in 1965 for his contributions to aeronautical and astronautical engineering instrumentation.
  2. ^ a b c "International Space Hall of Fame ‑ Charles S. Draper". New Mexico Museum of Space History. Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  3. ^ Alumni MIT
  4. ^ Morgan, Christopher; O'Connor, Joseph; Hoag, David, "Draper at 25" Archived May 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, publication of Draper Labs, 1998
  5. ^ National Academy of Engineering (1992). Memorial Tributes. National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-04349-2.
  6. ^ Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 orbited the Moon, but did not land; Apollo 13 was unable to land on the Moon due to a near-disastrous oxygen tank explosion en route to the Moon.
  7. ^ Beirne Lay, Jr., Earthbound Astronauts - the Builders of Apollo-Saturn (Prentice Hall, New York, NY). 1971 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 78-145628, p. 92
  8. ^ National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science
  9. ^ "Rufus Oldenburger Medal". American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Retrieved 2013-02-21.
  10. ^ "Past Goddard Trophy Winners". National Space Club. Archived from the original on 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  11. ^ "Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award". American Automatic Control Council. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  12. ^ a b "History of Charles Stark "Doc" Draper and the Draper Prize". National Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  13. ^ Wilford, John Noble (27 July 1987). "Charles S. Draper, Engineer; Guided Astronauts to the Moon". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "About the Draper Prize". Draper Laboratory. Archived from the original on 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2013-01-27.

Further reading

External links

Albert G. Hill

Professor Albert G. Hill, a physicist, was a key leader in the development of radar in World War II, director of the MIT Lincoln Laboratory development of the electronic Distant Early Warning and SAGE continental air defense systems, and first chairman of The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. He died in 1996.

Dr. Hill was born in St. Louis on Jan. 11, 1910. In 1930 he received the BS in mechanical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis and, after serving two years with Bell Telephone Laboratories, an MS in physics (1934). He received the PhD in physics from the University of Rochester in 1937.

He was an instructor in physics at MIT from 1937 to 1941, when he became a staff member of the Radiation Laboratory at MIT, which was developing radar for use in World War II. Hill headed the Radio Frequency Group in the Transmitter Components division and by the end of the war was chief of the 800-person division. After the war he became associate director of the newly formed Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, and was promoted in 1949 to its director.

Lincoln Lab was formed in 1951 at the request of the government, and Dr. Hill became its second director, leading the development of the computerized SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system and the DEW line of radar sets stretching from northern Alaska to Greenland. He helped establish in 1955 the SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe) Technical Center in The Hague and the NATO Communications Line, extending from northern Norway to eastern Turkey.

In 1956, Dr. Hill went to Washington to serve as director for the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group and vice president and director of research for the Institute for Defense Analyses. He returned to MIT in 1959 and resumed teaching physics. In 1965, he also became a lecturer in the Department of Political Science.

In 1970, he was appointed to the new position of vice president for research, supervising research administration on campus and the special laboratories (Lincoln Lab and the Instrumentation Lab). In May 1970, MIT formally divested itself of the Instrumentation Lab, which under the direction of Charles Stark Draper had developed the gyroscope and the inertial guidance system and had guided Apollo XI to the moon in July 1969. Dr. Hill, still vice president of research, became the chairman of the independent board of directors of the laboratory, renamed the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in honor of its founder. Draper Lab remained a division of MIT for three years and became independent in 1973.

In 1984, the Draper Laboratory dedicated the Albert G. Hill Building at One Hampshire Street in Cambridge.

Apollo PGNCS

The Apollo primary guidance, navigation, and control system (PGNCS) (pronounced pings) was a self-contained inertial guidance system that allowed Apollo spacecraft to carry out their missions when communications with Earth were interrupted, either as expected, when the spacecraft were behind the Moon, or in case of a communications failure. The Apollo command module (CM) and lunar module (LM), were each equipped with a version of PGNCS. PGNCS, and specifically its computer, were also the command center for all system inputs from the LM, including the Kollsman Instrument built alignment optical telescope, the radar system, the manual translation and rotation device inputs by the astronauts as well as other inputs from the LM systems.

PGNCS was developed by the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. The prime contractor for PGNCS and manufacturer of the inertial measurement unit (IMU) was the Delco Division of General Motors. Development was under the direction of Charles Stark Draper and MIT Draper Labs and consisted of the following components:

an inertial measurement unit (IMU)

the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC)

resolvers to convert inertial platform angles to signals usable for servo control

an optical unit

a mechanical frame, called the navigation base (or navbase), to rigidly connect the optical device and, in the LM, the rendezvous radar to the IMU

the AGC software

Bradford Parkinson

Bradford Parkinson (February 16, 1935) is an American engineer and inventor, retired United States Air Force Colonel and recalled emeritus Professor at Stanford University. He is best known as the lead architect, advocate and developer, with early contributions from Ivan Getting and Roger Easton, of the Air Force NAVSTAR program, better known as Global Positioning System.He was also the principal investigator and program manager on Gravity Probe B, which tested gravitomagnetism and was the first ever direct mechanical test of Einstein’s General Relativity.He has received numerous awards and honors for GPS and contributions to engineering and invention, including the Charles Stark Draper Prize, National Inventors Hall of Fame, and IEEE Medal of Honor, among others.. In 2019, Bradford Parkinson shared the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering with three other GPS pioneers (James Spilker, Hugo Freuhauf, and Richard Schwartz).

Charles Draper

Charles Draper may refer to:

Charles Draper (musician) (1869–1952), British classical clarinetist

Charles Stark Draper (1901–1987), American scientist and engineer

Charles Stark Draper Prize

The U.S. National Academy of Engineering annually awards the Draper Prize, which is given for the advancement of engineering and the education of the public about engineering. It is one of three prizes that constitute the "Nobel Prizes of Engineering" — the others are the Academy's Russ and Gordon Prizes. The winner of each of these prizes receives $500,000. The Draper prize is named for Charles Stark Draper, the "father of inertial navigation", an MIT professor and founder of Draper Laboratory.

David M. Maddox

David M. Maddox (born April 5, 1938) is a retired United States Army four-star general who served as Commander in Chief, United States Army Europe/Commander, Central Army Group (CINCUSAREUR/COMCENTAG) from 1992 to 1993; Commander in Chief, U.S. Army Europe (CINCUSAREUR) from 1993 to 1994. He commanded the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from 1981 to 1983. He is a 1960 graduate of Virginia Military Institute. He received his MS in Applied Science (Operations Research) from Southern Illinois University in 1969.

Maddox spent much of his time towards the end of his career transitioning the army in Europe to a post-Cold War stance. After retiring from the army, Maddox has worked as an independent consultant to industry and the government. He has also served on the Defense Science Board, is a Senior Fellow of the Army Science Board, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, is Chair of the Board on Army Science and Technology, is a Member Emeritus of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, and is a member of the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs.In October 2007, Maddox was part of a six-member panel appointed by Secretary of the Army Pete Geren that issued a report critical of the Pentagon's procedures for appointing and supervising contracting officers. He served as a member of the Department of the Army 120-day study, commissioned by Secretary of the Army John McHugh, to examine its acquisition organizations, policies, workforce and processes, including how it acquires and handles equipment.

He received the Military Operations Research Society's Wanner Award for outstanding contributions to the progress of this advanced profession and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences' J. Steinhardt prize for lifetime contributions to the practical applications of OR techniques for the solution of military problems.

Draper Laboratory

Draper Laboratory is an American not-for-profit research and development organization, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts; its official name is "The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc". The laboratory specializes in the design, development, and deployment of advanced technology solutions to problems in national security, space exploration, health care and energy.

The laboratory was founded in 1932 by Charles Stark Draper at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop aeronautical instrumentation, and came to be called the "MIT Instrumentation Laboratory". It was renamed for its founder in 1970 and separated from MIT in 1973 to become an independent, non-profit organization.The expertise of the laboratory staff includes the areas of guidance, navigation, and control technologies and systems; fault-tolerant computing; advanced algorithms and software solutions; modeling and simulation; and microelectromechanical systems and multichip module technology.

Inertial Stellar Compass

Inertial Stellar Compass (ISC) is an instrument concept for an advanced navigation system designed to allow spacecraft of the future to operate more autonomously.

The ISC is small in size and consumes low power to operate. ISC is a proposed instrument of NASA, part of New Millennium program's Space Technology 6 project, and currently under development at Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.The instrument functions with a combination of a miniaturized star tracker and gyroscopes. It uses a wide field-of-view active pixel star camera and a micro electromechanical system to determine the real-time stellar attitude (orientation) of the spacecraft. It has a mass of 2.5 kg and requires 3.5 W power.

Jack Kilby

Jack St. Clair Kilby (November 8, 1923 – June 20, 2005) was an American electrical engineer who took part (along with Robert Noyce) in the realization of the first integrated circuit while working at Texas Instruments (TI) in 1958. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on December 10, 2000. To congratulate him, American President Bill Clinton wrote, "You can take pride in the knowledge that your work will help to improve lives for generations to come."Kilby is also the co-inventor of the handheld calculator and the thermal printer, for which he has the patents. He also has patents for seven other inventions.

James W. Plummer

James W. Plummer (January 29, 1920 – January 16, 2013) was an engineer who served as the fifth Director of the National Reconnaissance Office. Plummer was the first Director NRO to come from private industry. He previously served as the Lockheed Corporation program manager for the CORONA and LANYARD imaging systems. Plummer focused on developing the second generation of U.S. satellites – the electro-optical systems. He earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1953. In 2005 he received the Charles Stark Draper Prize for his contributions to the CORONA project. He died at Medford, Oregon in 2013. He was 92.

John B. Goodenough

John Bannister Goodenough (born 25 July 1922 in Jena, Germany) is a German-born American professor and solid-state physicist. He is currently a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at The University of Texas at Austin. He is widely credited for the identification and development of the Li-ion rechargeable battery as well as for developing the Goodenough–Kanamori rules for determining the sign of the magnetic superexchange in materials. In 2014, he received the Charles Stark Draper Prize for his contributions to the lithium-ion battery.

John Hopps

John H. Hopps (1939 – May 14, 2004) was an African-American physicist and politician. A native of Dallas, Texas, Hopps was a Ford Scholar to Morehouse College, also receiving degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (where he was a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity) and Brandeis University. After his graduation in 1971, Hopps joined the faculty at Ohio State University, and later accepted a research position in nuclear engineering at MIT, and was a member of leadership at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.In 1992, Hopps joined the National Science Foundation, where he was director of the division of materials sciences, and in 1995 returned to Morehouse, where he became provost and senior vice-president. Hopps was appointed by President George W. Bush as deputy Undersecretary of Defense, in 2001, where he oversaw research for defense and engineering, a position he held until his death on 14 May 2004 in Potomac, Maryland.

List of members of the National Academy of Engineering (Aerospace)

This list is a subsection of the List of members of the National Academy of Engineering, which includes over 2,000 current members of the United States National Academy of Engineering, each of whom is affiliated with one of 12 disciplinary sections. Each person's name, primary institution, and election year are given. This list does not include deceased members.

MIT Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems

The MIT Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS) is an interdisciplinary research laboratory of MIT, working on research in the areas of communications, control, and signal processing combining faculty from the School of Engineering (including the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics), the Department of Mathematics and the MIT Sloan School of Management. The lab is located in the Dreyfoos Tower of the Stata Center and shares some research duties with MITs Lincoln Laboratory and the independent Charles Stark Draper Laboratory.

National Academy of Engineering

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is an American nonprofit, non-governmental organization. The National Academy of Engineering is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, along with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Research Council.

The NAE operates engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers.

New members are annually elected by current members, based on their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The NAE is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the rest of the National Academies the role of advising the federal government.

Russ Prize

The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize is an American national and international award established by the United States National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in October 1999 in Athens, Ohio. Named after Fritz Russ, the founder of Systems Research Laboratories, and his wife Dolores Russ, it recognizes a bioengineering achievement that "has had a significant impact on society and has contributed to the advancement of the human condition through widespread use." The award was instigated at the request of Ohio University to honor Fritz Russ, one of its alumni.The first Russ Prize was awarded in 2001 to Earl E. Bakken and Wilson Greatbatch. The prize is awarded biennially in odd years. From 2003-2011 there was a single winner. Multiple winners were recognized in 2013-2017. The first non-Americans to receive the Russ Prize were three of the five co-winners honored in 2015.

Only living persons may receive the prize, and recipients of the Charles Stark Draper Prize are not eligible for the Russ Prize. Members of the NAE and non-members worldwide are able to receive the award.The winners are announced during National Engineers Week in February. They receive US$500,000, a gold medallion and a hand-scribed certificate. The Russ Prize, the Gordon Prize and the Draper Prize, all awarded by the NAE, are known collectively as the "Nobel Prizes of Engineering".

Stanley Shanfield

Stanley Shanfield serves as a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff and Technical Director of Advanced Hardware Development at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a post he has held since 2003. He is the holder of seven patents and has led teams responsible for inventing and manufacturing new technologies in the fields of semiconductor device fabrication and optical electronics.

Willem P. C. Stemmer

Willem P. C. "Pim" Stemmer (12 March 1957 – 2 April 2013) was a Dutch scientist and entrepreneur who has invented numerous biotechnologies. He was the founder and CEO of Amunix Inc., a company that creates "pharmaceutical proteins with extended dosing frequency". His other prominent inventions include DNA shuffling, now referred to as molecular breeding. He holds more than 97 patents. Stemmer was honored with the Charles Stark Draper Prize in 2011 for the pioneering contributions to directed evolution which won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018. He was elected as member of National Academy of Engineering.

Stemmer died of cancer on April 2, 2013.

Windsor, Missouri

Windsor is a city in Henry and Pettis counties, Missouri, United States. The population was 2,893 at the 2010 census.

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