Photo of Charles S. Draper

Charles S. Draper

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For [his] innumerable imaginative engineering achievements which met urgent National needs of instrumentation, control, and guidance in aeronautics and astronautics.

Legend has it, Charles Stark Draper took more classes at MIT than any student on record. The Missouri-born scientist and engineer epitomized the classic overachiever.

Doc Draper, as he was often called, founded MIT’s Instrumentation Laboratory. The lab’s first major accomplishment included the Mark 14 gyroscopic gunsight, which allowed the Navy to take deadly aim – even from a ship being tossed about by rough seas.

Draper is also considered the father of inertial navigation, systems that use computer and motion sensors to guide an aircraft’s course. In 1961, he began developing the navigation systems that would guide Apollo 11, America’s first successful mission to put a man on the moon.

At the time, James E. Webb, NASA’s administrator, asked him “Stark, this is going to be a hell of a job. Can it be done?”

“It’ll be ready before you need it,” Draper later recalled telling Webb. And it was.