Satellite Pioneers Miller, '50, and Plummer, '53, 2005 Draper Prize Winners

Satellite Pioneers Miller, '50, and Plummer, '53, 2005 Draper Prize Winners

Satellite Pioneers Miller, '50, and Plummer, '53, 2005 Draper Prize Winners

Edward A. Miller, '50 (left) and James W. Plummer, '53 (right).
Edward A. Miller, '50 (left) and James W. Plummer, '53 (right).

On February 21, Edward A. Miller, '50, and James W. Plummer, '53, received the Charles Stark Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering—one of the world's preeminent awards in engineering—for their pioneering work in the top-secret Corona Project.

Mr. Miller spoke to Clark School students and faculty on February 22.

The Draper Prize, in the words of the Academy, "honors an engineer whose accomplishment has significantly impacted society by improving the quality of life, providing the ability to live freely and comfortably, and/or permitting the access to information."

Mr. Miller spoke to Clark School students and faculty on February 22.


Vintage newspaper photo.

When published, the caption to this photo read: "Getting the Drift. Practicing for a Discoverer satellite retrieving attempt, an Air Force C-119, its catcher gear extended, flies over a parachute with a dummy satellite to snatch it from the air. This was the technique used yesterday when a C-119 made a successful grab of Discoverer XIV's capsule over the Pacific." (Photo: Mike Morgan. Material courtesy of Edward Miller.)

The Draper Prize, in the words of the Academy, "honors an engineer whose accomplishment has significantly impacted society by improving the quality of life, providing the ability to live freely and comfortably, and/or permitting the access to information."

Mr. Miller, who received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering here, and Mr. Plummer, who received a master's degree in electrical engineering here, were among five members of the top-secret Corona Project to be presented with the award. Mr. Miller went on to become Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Development, and Mr. Plummer to become Under Secretary for the Air Force. Both led highly successful corporate careers as well.

The Corona Project (1959 to 1972) created the field of satellite surveillance, providing vital photographic information that permitted the United States to gauge the nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War and pursue more effective foreign policies. Mr. Plummer served as project manager and Mr. Miller as project engineer. Their team accomplished the first successful recovery of a man-made object from earth orbit.

Previous Draper Prizes recognized those who pioneered or developed personal computer networking, the global positioning system, fiber optics and other major engineering advances.

Learn more about Mr. Miller's distinguished career!

February 21, 2005


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"I encourage all of you to continue learning, to take some courses outside of the strict regime of engineering. You don't have to be a Ph.D. economist, but understand the basics. Branch out a little bit."

Edward Miller '50



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