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date: 26 February 2021

Draper, Charles Starklocked

(02 October 1901–25 July 1987)
  • Charles W. Carey Jr.


Draper, Charles Stark (02 October 1901–25 July 1987), aeronautical engineer, was born in Windsor, Missouri, the son of Arthur Draper, a dentist, and Martha Washington Stark, a former schoolteacher. From the beginning, Draper was a free spirit whose intellectual drive could not be contained within any one discipline. He matriculated at the University of Missouri in 1917 but transferred to Stanford University in 1919 when his parents moved to California. After receiving his B.A. in psychology in 1922, he abandoned his plan to become a physician and instead embarked on a career as a ship’s radio operator. He attended Herald’s Radio College in 1922 and then went along for the ride with a friend who was traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to attend Harvard University. Draper was so taken with Cambridge in general and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in particular that he immediately enrolled in MIT. In 1926 he received his B.S. in electrochemical engineering. His graduate coursework was such a free-form collage of mathematics, chemistry, physics, metallurgy, and aeronautical engineering that his M.S., which he received in 1928, was awarded from no particular department. In 1929 he began working as a research assistant in MIT’s aeronautical engineering department while pursuing a doctorate and was promoted to assistant professor in 1935. Again, his interests could not be confined to one narrow field of study. Not until 1938, after MIT demanded that he focus on ...

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