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Parkinson, Bradford.
Parkinson, Bradford.
Parkinson, Bradford and Fetter, Alexander L.
Corporate Author:
Stanford Historical Society
The interview begins with a discussion of Bradford Parkinson’s childhood in Madison, WI, followed by an education in Minneapolis after a family move. He recalls the influence of his father and the self-discipline learned at the Naval Academy. Parkinson tells of his move from the Navy to the Air Force, his time studying control theory and the maintenance of airborne electronics at MIT, where he forged a personal relationship with the inventor of inertial navigation system, Charles Stark “Doc” Draper. He talks about his decision to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Michigan, until a last minute “miracle” saw him heading for Stanford. Parkinson discusses his next move, heading to Edwards, CA to work as an academic instructor at an Air Force test pilot school. He recounts his move to the Air Academy and his research into inertial guidance systems. He goes into great depth on his time developing the digital fire control systems and flying the planes in North Vietnam. Parkinson then recalls his work at the Pentagon, working with Advanced Ballistic Reentry Systems in Los Angeles, and the joys of working again in research and development. He worked alongside the Army and the Navy on Operation 621B. Parkinson discusses the origins of GPS and his experience at the Department of Defense. Parkinson describes the latter years of his career, teaching at Colorado State and then working in corporations such as Rockwell and Intermetrics. He details his return to Stanford, first as a consultant–alongside his work at Intermetrics–on Gravity Probe B, and then as head of the project. Parkinson discuss his years at Stanford and the changes that have taken place throughout the decades, including gender equality in academia and multi-disciplinary teaching. He recalls fondly taking over at the Trimble Navigation project in its time of need, overseeing the assembly of a new executive team and the soaring of the company’s stock prices. As the interview draws to a close, Parkinson discusses his family and his passion for olive-growing.
Bradford Parkinson, Stanford Historical Society, oral histories, interviews, Global Positioning System, Inertial Guidance Systems, and Space Mechanics
May 12, 2015
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2012