80 years of Draper Lab innovation began with MIT’s Instrumentation Lab by Kathleen Granchelli
As the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department marks its 100th anniversary, Draper Laboratory joins in the celebration of the department’s many achievements over the years, reflects on our common heritage, and looks forward to our continuing partnerships in educating students while supporting faculty in joint research projects.
The MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s 2014 centennial immediately follows a year in which Draper Laboratory celebrated its founding 80 years ago by Dr. Charles Stark Draper as the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. Following 40 years as part of AeroAstro, Draper was spun off in 1973 as an independent, not-for-profit organization chartered to do research and development in the national interest and to support advanced technical education. The chronicle of eight decades of engineering achievements begins with Doc’s early days at MIT, where his interests in improving aircraft instrumentation led to the development of applications for inertial sensors. Among his pioneering achievements were the development of the Mark 14 gyro-stabilized gunsight for shipboard anti-aircraft guns used in the Pacific Theater during World War II and the first transcontinental aircraft flight navigated solely with an inertial navigation system.
Doc’s monikers — “the father of inertial navigation” and “Mr. Gyro” — were as famous as his MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which continued to develop technical capabilities for new national defense needs and human space exploration following the early work on the Mark 14. Beginning in the late 1950s, the Lab began a relationship with the U.S. Navy to design and develop the strategic guidance system for the Fleet Ballistic Missile Program that has lasted nearly 60
80 years of Draper Lab innovation began with MIT’s Instrumentation Lab