Skip to main content

Paul B. MacCready Papers

Identifier: MacCreadyPB

Scope and Contents

The Paul B. MacCready Papers include documents, media, objects, manuscripts and printed material; awards; videos and film; photographs and slides, diaries and notebooks; memorabilia, biographical material and ephemera.


  • 1931-2002



The collection is open for research. The collection has been mostly digitized and is available online. The physical collection is STORED OFFSITE. Researchers must contact the Archives at least 72 hours in advance for access.

Publication Rights

Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.


Paul B. MacCready, Jr. (September 29, 1925 - August 28, 2007) was an American aeronautical engineer, entrepreneur and inventor. He was the founder of Meteorology Research, Inc., and AeroVironment. He was the designer of the human-powered aircrafts Gossamer Condor and Gossamer Albatross, both winning the Kremer prize, respectively in 1977 and 1979. To top off his successes, MacCready's Bionic Bat - an aircraft that used human power not only to power the aircraft directly, but to store energy in a battery - won yet another two Kremer Prize for human-powered air speed. In addition to these achievements, MacCready designed and produced the Gossamer Penguin, the first airplane to be completely solar powered. He also created the Solar Challenger, a similar aircraft used to spark the public imagination concerning the possibilities of solar power. Yet MacCready was not limited to the development of exceptional flying machines. His interest in the environment and technology led him to construct other kinds of innovative machinery. Notably, in 1987 he helped build the solar powered Sunraycer which won the World Solar Challenge race across Australia. In collaboration with General Motors, he developed the aerodynamically efficient electric powered car, called Impact. Paul MacCready was the recipient of many awards. Amongst the countless honorary degrees, prizes, medals and decorations, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers named him "Engineer of the Century" in 1978 and bestowed upon him the Ralph Coats Roe Medal in 1998 for bettering the public's appreciation of engineering. In 1981 he was named the "Inventor of the Year" and in 1982 he received the prestigious Lindbergh Award. He received the Howard Hughes Memorial Award for lifetime achievement (1999) and the Design News Special Achievement Award. In 1999 he was included in Time magazine's "The Century's Greatest Minds" and also inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame. He received the Guggenheim medal in 1987, the Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award in 1978, the AIAA Reed Aeronautical Award in 1979 and many other accolades. The Smithsonian National Air Space Museum displays five vehicles designed by Paul MacCready.


56.5 linear feet (113 archival boxes)

Language of Materials



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. Especially prevalent within the collection are papers and ephemera from 1977 to 1985 during which time MacCready was working on his Gossamers and interest in human-powered flight was at its peak


The collection is organized into 7 series. Some of the major projects where MacCready was the main player, like the Gossamer Condor and Gossamer Albatross are covered in more than one series, in the case of videos, audios and images are grouped by their media.

Series 1, AeroVironment includes papers and correspondence related to activities, projects, collaborations and inventions taken place during the years from the foundation of AeroVironment in 1971 to 2002. Papers are arranged chronologically within a subseries or a header. Additional papers and other media related to work done during this period span can be found throughout the collection. The series is subdivided into 9 subseries: Subseries 1: AeroVironment history and strategic planning. Subseries 2: meetings, conferences, talks and visits. Subseries 3: Memos, business documents and correspondence. Subseries 4: Patents and Trademarks. Subseries 5: Gossamer Condor. Subseries 6: Gossamer Albatross. Subseries 7: Solar powered aircrafts. Subseries 8: General Motors including EV1 and GM Sunraycer. Subseries 9: Other AV projects.

Series 2, Diaries includes mostly diaries and a few appointments calendars and address books, arranged chronologically from 1951 to 1999. The bulk of the diaries are from 1951 to 1974.

Series 3, Notebooks includes notebooks starting from the Meteorology period from 1961 until December 2002. The notebooks include annotations about daily appointments and activities, replacing the use of diaries and calendars, addresses, business cards stapled to pages and many technical notes.

Series 4, Writings includes articles, talks and conference presentations. The papers are arranged chronologically and they span from 1945 to 2002.

Series 5, Biographical and correspondence consists of five subseries. Subseries 1 includes mostly personal correspondence, from 1943 to 2000, with the bulk of it covering the 1940s. Subseries 2 covers school and university years. Subseries 3 includes papers, certificates, trophies and other material related to the many awards that Paul MacCready received during his working life. Subseries 4 includes miscellaneous papers and memorabilia. Subseries 5 includes the many articles that were written in magazines, journals and other publications about MacCready and his projects. Many of these articles were published in foreign publications.

Series 6, Miscellaneous material consists of four subseries. Subseries 1 includes papers about MacCready's first company, Meteorology Research Inc., from 1953 to 1972. Subseries 2 covers soaring and gliding. Subseries 3 includes papers related to MacCready's involvement in educational programs and Subseries 4 includes miscellaneous papers and other project.

Series 7, Still images and A-V includes photos, slides, videos and audios.

Physical Location

Archives, California Institute of Technology.

Acquisition Information

The Papers of Paul B. MacCready were donated to the Caltech Archives in December 2003.

Related Material

The Gell-Mann papers include papers and correspondence between Gell-Mann and MacCready

Processing History

Processed by Kristen Abraham, Kevin Knox, Mariella Soprano

Processing of the papers of Paul B. MacCready started in 2004 and was completed in 2014

Finding Aid for the Paul B. MacCready Papers, 1931-2002
Kristen Abraham, Kevin Knox, Mariella Soprano.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

1200 East California Blvd.
MC B215-74
Pasadena California 91125 United States of America
(626) 395-2704