California Institute of Technology


Paul B. MacCready, 1925-2007


In the News

MacCready grant


The MacCready digitization project will be the first on the part of the Caltech Archives to make an entire paper, artifact, image and analog media collection available on the internet to the widest possible public.


Shown right above: Paul and Judy MacCready pose with their three sons, from left, Parker, Marshall and Tyler, with a model of the Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the subject of an aerodynamics experiment by Paul MacCready in 1984.  Featured in the IMAX motion picture, "On the Wing," the wing-flapping flying machine is a mechanized high-fidelity reincarnation of a 140 million-year-old creature, the largest known flying ornithopter. The QN is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution. MacCready papers, Caltech Archives.


A Caltech alumnus (MS physics, 1948; PhD aeronautics, 1952), MacCready was a visionary, an inventor and an entrepreneur who pioneered alternative energy solutions through his company, AeroVironment. In the mid-1970s he began work on the celebrated human-powered Gossamer aircraft series, beginning with the Gossamer Condor. He continued to work on the problems of solar-powered flight and unmanned aircraft, but his interest in environmentally friendly technology also led him to innovative electric and hybrid automotive vehicles, micro-air vehicles and the high altitude, long endurance Helios solar aircraft for telecommunications, imaging and scientific research.

Shown above: Paul MacCready with the GM Sunraycer, the solar-powered car that won the first World Solar Challenge competition in 1987. The vehicle is now in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. MacCready papers, Caltech Archives.


The Paul B. MacCready papers were donated to the Caltech Archives in 2003 and are partially processed for use. They contain a diverse array of documents, media, and objects—manuscripts and printed material; awards; videos and film; photographs and slides, diaries and notebooks; memorabilia, biographical material and ephemera—all created over a span of over 70 years (ca. 1930-2002). All of this material will be digitized and made open to users via the internet. MacCready himself was an indefatigable promoter of technology, the environment, and his own projects. His papers include hundreds of folders with speeches, talks and interviews, many given to interested non-scientific groups such as bicycling organizations, high schools and flying clubs. We are grateful for the opportunity to share the papers of Paul MacCready in a fitting recognition of his spirit of innovation and entrepreneurism.

Shown above: Young Paul MacCready with one of his many champion airplane models.
MacCready papers, Caltech Archives.

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