Charles Stark “Doc” Draper 

download (2)



BornOctober 2, 1901, Windsor

 DiedJuly 25, 1987, Cambridge

 EducationMassachusetts Institute of Technology (1928 – 1938), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1926 – 1928),Massachusetts Institute of Technology(1922 – 1926), Stanford University,University of Missouri–Columbia

 AwardsNational Medal of Science for Behavioral and Social Science


“Father of inertial navigation,” 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.


                                Draper Laboratory is an American not-for-profit research and development organization inCambridge, Massachusetts. Draper focuses on the design, development, and deployment of advanced technology solutions to problems in national security, space exploration, health care and energy.

The lab was created in the early 1930s by Charles Stark Draper at MIT as the Instrumentation Lab. It was renamed for its founder in 1970 and separated from MIT in 1973 to become an independent, non-profit organization.

Draper’s expertise includes the areas of guidance, navigation, and control technologies and systems; fault-tolerant computing; advanced algorithms and software solutions; modeling and simulation; and MEMS and multichip module technology.


docdraper (1)


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.

docdraper (2)docdraper

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.


He died in the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at age 85. He was eulogized as “one of the foremost engineers of our time”, and Howard Wesley Johnson, Chairman of the MIT Corporation, credited him for creating a “whole new industry in inertial instruments and systems for airplanes, ships, submarines, missiles, satellites and space vehicles”.


One of the world’s preeminent awards for engineering achievement, The Charles Stark Draper Prize was established by the National Academy of Engineering and endowed by Draper Laboratory in 1988 to recognize innovative engineering achievements and their reduction to practice in ways that have led to important benefits and significant improvement in the well-being and freedom of humanity.

The Prize recognizes achievement in all engineering disciplines, and engineers worldwide are eligible to receive it. The Prize is awarded annually during National Engineers Week in Washington, D.C.