John T. Parsons
National Medal of Technology and Innovation
For their development and successful demonstration of the numerically-controlled machine tool for the production of three-dimensional shapes, which has been essential for the production of commercial airliners and which is seminal for the growth of the robotics, CAD-CAM, and automated manufacturing industries.
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BirthOctober 11, 1913
Awarded WithFrank L. Stulen
Country of BirthUSA
Key ContributionsRevolutionized Production Of Cars And Airplanes With Numerical Controls For Machines
Awarded byRonald Wilson Reagan
Areas of ImpactTransportation
AffiliationsJohn T. Parsons Company
Other PrizesNational Inventors Hall of Fame
John Parson’s first memory was filing a piece of iron at the age of 3. He learned to tell metals by their smell-- the way some people can distinguish flowers. Parsons' career spanned 60 years of creative problem solving, and he sought to affect and improve all phases of manufacturing, from new materials to new ways to settle labor negotiations.
Parsons, along with his friend Frank Stulen, envisioned a new concept of manufacturing — metalworking using numerical control-- the precursor of today's computer aided manufacturing. Together, they were the first to use computer methods to solve machining problems, specifically, the curves of helicopter rotor blades. For 40 years, he worked at Parsons Corporation, which became a world leader in production of helicopter blades, and produced fuel tanks for the Saturn rockets that took astronauts to the moon.
Parsons's breakthroughs in computerized manufacturing led to the development of Computer Numerical Control (CNC), which controls the automation of machine tools and tool processes. CNC continues to be used for any processes that can be carried on machine tool motion platforms.
By Jen Santisi