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MacCready, Paul B. (Paul Beattie) (Aeronautical Engineer)



  • Existence: 1925 - 2007


Background: Caltech alumnus (MS physics, 1948; PhD aeronautics, 1952).
Biographical/Historical Description: Paul B. MacCready was an inventor and entrepreneur who became internationally known in 1977 as the “father of human-powered flight” when his Gossamer Condor made the first sustained controlled flight powered solely by its pilot. MacCready was born in New Haven, CT, in 1925 and attended Yale University (BS in physics, 1947). During his youth he progressed from building model airplanes to flying real engine-powered planes and gliders. He began to compete in soaring contests in the late 1940s and 1950s and set several records. MacCready began graduate work at Caltech in 1947 and completed both master's and doctoral degrees by 1952 (MS physics, 1948; PhD aeronautics, 1952). By then he had founded his first company, Meteorology Research Inc. (MRI) in Altadena, CA, which was involved in weather research and modification. In 1971 he founded his second company, AeroVironment. Beginning in the mid-1970s MacCready began work on the celebrated Gossamer aircraft series, beginning with the Gossamer Condor (later including the Albatross and Penguin, the latter solar-powered). He continued to work on the problems of solar-powered flight and unmanned aircraft.

MacCready received numerous honors, including the Engineer of the Century award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the NASA Public Service Grand Achievement Award, and Aviation Week’s Aerospace Laureate designation. He was selected Graduate of the Decade by the California Institute of Technology and was named one of the 100 greatest minds of the 20th century by Time magazine.
Biographical/Historical Collection Notes: Oral History 2003. A 75-page interview with Sara Lippincott covers MacCready's scientific and entrepreneurial career, with biographical details. He recalls the course of his interest in human-powered flight and the details of his achievements in producing state-of-the-art aircraft, both human-powered and unmanned. MacCready's long-term interest in the environment and his views on current environmental issues are captured.

Papers: Paul MacCready's papers were donated to the Caltech Archives in 2003. They are currently unprocessed.

Found in 17 Collections and/or Records:

GALCIT 50 Year Anniversary

Identifier: 1995-00198

Gossamer Condor

Identifier: 1986-00400

Paul B. MacCready Papers

Identifier: 10220-MS
Abstract Arriving on December 30th 2003, the collection documents most aspects of MacCready's career and many features of his individual character. Constituted within the papers is a diverse array of documents, media, objects, manuscripts and printed material; awards; videos and film; photographs and slides, diaries and notebooks; memorabilia, biographical material and ephemera. While the collection spans over seventy years (ca. 1930-2002), the bulk of material dates from the mid 1960s to the mid '90s....
Dates: ca. 1931-2002

National Energy Conference

Identifier: 1995-00199