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Last week the world lost Paul MacCready, one of the most important inventors of the last 100 years. From human-powered flying machines to solar-powered gliders to electric cars, Dr. MacCready had a passion for sustainable mobility.
In 1980, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers named MacCready the engineer of the century. Perhaps his best-known inventions are the Gossamer Condor, which made the first sustained flight powered by human power; the Gossamer Albatross, which flew, human-powered, across the English Channel; and the Sunracyer, a solar-powered car that ultimately led to the EV1 electric car from General Motors.
Constantly creative and endlessly inventive, MacCready's insights will continue to inspire others for decades to come. We may not know the true impact of the work of this modern-day da Vinci until well into the future.
For poignant reflections on MacCready's life and work, read this from the New York Times and
I was honored to meet Dr. MacCready in the summer of 2006. We chatted briefly about aerodynamics, the EV1, the Toyota Prius and the future of electric cars. I was so nervous to meet him that I'm sure my questions didn't sound very intelligent. But he put me at ease quickly. He asked what I do and who I work for — after my reply he said he was honored to meet me and really respected the work we do. I was blown away — Paul MacCready … honored … to meet me? Wow, that just didn't make sense. I made sure to convey that the honor was ALL mine.
After several minutes we had to go our separate ways, but we promised to chat more in the future. Unfortunately, that never happened. 'Interview MacCready' and 'Profile of MacCready' have been on my to-do list for far too long. Now those talks can't happen, but I look forward to watching his influence crop up again and again as the future of energy-efficient mobility unfolds.
Click here to visit the Paul MacCready memorial page.