Dr. Parkinson was born in 1935 in Wisconsin. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1957 to 1978, retiring as a colonel. Early in his career, he chaired the Department of Astronautics and Computer Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Dr. Parkinson created and ran the GPS Joint Program Office from 1972-1978, during which time he received the Defense Department Superior Performance Award as the best program director in the Air Force. He has been the “chief architect” of GPS throughout the system’s concept, engineering development, and implementation.
Dr. Parkinson served as Group Vice President for Rockwell International and was the General Manager for Intermetrics where he participated in the IPO. During his period as acting CEO/President of Trimble Navigation the company stock quadrupled in price.
He has been a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University since 1984, currently as the Edward C. Wells Endowed Chair professor (emeritus). At Stanford he directed the Space Test of Einstein’s General Relativity called Gravity Probe-B (sponsored by NASA), and led major “firsts” on the use of GPS including the first commercial aircraft “blind” landing and first auto-steering of a farm tractor (to 2 inch accuracy).
Dr. Parkinson has received many distinguished awards such as the NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, IEEE Simon Ramo Award, Engineer of the Year for Silicon Valley, the AIAA Goddard Award, Aerospace Contribution to Society medal and in 2003 he was awarded the Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering (sometimes called the engineer’s Nobel) for the development of GPS.