Paul B. MacCready

Paul B. MacCready
Paul B. MacCready
  • From:

    AeroVironment, Inc. | Monrovia, CA

  • Year:


  • Subject:


  • Award:

    Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science

  • Citation:

    For creating, in the spirit of the Wright Brothers, a series of innovations in the fields of soaring, meteorology, human and solar powered flight, upper atmospheric research, and unoccupied and miniature aircraft. For half a century, his exceptional contributions have expanded the frontiers of the science and technology of aeronautics, aeronautical materials, structures energy conservation and utilization, and autonomous and automatic flight.

2004 Bower Science Theme: Aviation

It is most appropriate that on the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' achievement of sustained powered flight, the Bower Award in the field of aviation goes to Paul MacCready, internationally known as the "father of human-powered flight" for the successful flights of the Gossamer Condor, for which he won the Franklin Institute 1979 Longstreth Award, and the Gossamer Albatross, which stayed aloft for 3 hours.

He then went on to an even bigger challenge—harnessing the sun's energy to power a plane. In 1980 he built the Gossamer Penquin, the world's first solar-powered airplane. This was followed by the Solar Challenger, which was piloted 163 miles from Paris, France to England, at an altitude of 11,000 feet, drawing world attention to photovoltaic cells as a renewable and non-polluting source of energy. MacCready's teams moved the solar technology into a series of solar-powered stratospheric fliers. The 247-feet Helios reached 96,863 feet, more than two miles higher than any plane has ever sustained level flight. Eventually, these non-polluting fliers, powered purely by sunbeams, will probe conditions in the stratosphere, perform surveillance, and serve as 11-mile high, station-keeping radio towers for multi-channel, wide bandwidth telecommunications.

MacCready earned his B.S. in physics from Yale University in 1947 and a Ph.D. in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology in 1952. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He holds 15 patents and has received countless honors.

The 247-foot solar powered aircraft, Helios, reached an altitude of nearly 97,000 feet, over 10,000 feet higher than any airplane has held level flight.

Dr. MacCready developed the solar-powered car Sun-Racer. His company AeroVironment also developed the first electric car for General Motors.

Dr. MacCready has been interested in aeronautics from an early age.

In order to win a British contest, Dr. MacCready developed the 70-pound, 96-foot Gossamer Condor, the first successful human-powered aircraft.

Information as of April 2003