Doc Draper & His Lab
Dr. Charles Stark Draper evolved the theory, invented and developed the technology, and led the effort that brought inertial navigation to operational use in aircraft, space vehicles, and submarines.
Born in Windsor, Mo., on Oct. 2, 1901, "Doc" Draper began his college work in arts and sciences at the University of Missouri in 1917, continuing on to graduate from Stanford University in 1922 with a B.A. in psychology. He entered MIT the same year, earning an S.B. in electrochemical engineering in 1926, an S.M. in 1928, and a Sc.D. in physics in 1938.
Doc began as an assistant professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT in 1935, and ultimately advanced to the post of Institute Professor in 1966. Doc’s Instrumentation Laboratory eventually divested from MIT in 1973 to become an independent nonprofit research and development laboratory—Draper Laboratory.
First sponsored by the Sperry Gyroscope Co., Dr. Draper's engineering work led to the development of the Mark 14 gunsight during World War II, where in 1942, the USS South Dakota, using Dr. Draper's gunsights, shot down 32 Japanese attacking aircraft, an unprecedented antiaircraft score.
He continued work with gun pointing and firing control developments until the late 1950s. His focus and expertise in the use of gyros in inertial guidance systems led to such monumental achievements as the Apollo landing on the moon and development of guidance systems or components for all U.S. deployed strategic missiles. Nationally, Doc's work has created a multibillion-dollar industry. The foundations of his work have since resulted in the development of a complete inertial navigation system for manned and unmanned vehicles and other autonomous applications for undersea, land, and air applications.
Among his more than 70 honors and awards, were the prestigious Langley Medal of the Smithsonian Institution, the NASA Public Service Award, the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Trophy of the National Space Club, and the National Medal of Science from President Lyndon Johnson.
In 1978, MIT established the Charles Stark Draper Professorship of Aeronautics and Astronautics in his honor. Dr. Draper received the "Engineering for Gold Award" from the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1984. The society cited his work in inertial guidance systems as one of the 10 outstanding engineering achievements of the past 50 years.
Many of Dr. Draper's former students are leaders in government, industry, the military, and academia.
Doc died in July 1987. In tribute to his memory, Draper Laboratory endowed the Charles Stark Draper Prize, an international engineering award administered by the National Academy of Engineering. The Prize is awarded annually to individuals whose outstanding engineering achievements have contributed to the well-being and freedom of all humanity