John T. Parsons
Born Oct 11 1913
- Died Apr 18 2007
Motor Controlled Apparatus for Positioning Machine Tool
Patent Number(s) 2,820,187
John Parsons changed the control of machines and industrial processes from an imprecise craft to an exact science, spawning a second industrial revolution. He brought computers to aircraft design, manufacturing, and real-time management reporting. He developed Numerical Control-produced evaporative patterns to replace weldments with streamlined castings, which revolutionized the production of automobile body dies.
Originally hired by the U.S. Air Force to create more precise parts templates, Parsons used a common by-the-numbers technique to replace hand calculations and measurements with computer-controlled calculations. This sped up the manual process and allowed more points to be included. This also made calculations more precise.
Parsons's invention also led to the development of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) which controls the automation of machine tools and tool processes. CNC has benefited from the integrated circuit industry because they allow CNC software to be more complex. CNC is now used for any processes that can be carried on machine tool motion platforms and that benefit from the separation of programming from operations.
Born in Detroit, Parsons received the first honorary Doctor of Engineering awarded by a manufacturing engineer by the University of Michigan.
Parsons' accomplishments spanned 60 years of creative problem solving. From his first job as a stamping plant piece-worker and then a tool room apprentice, he sought to affect and improve all phases of manufacturing, from new materials to new ways to settle labor negotiations.
His greatest gift was the invention of numerical control, which grew from his 1947 mating of a milling machine to a punch card system conceived by Frank L. Stulen in 1946. Stulen had adapted an IBM accounting machine to solve design engineering problems associated with the helicopter rotor blades Parsons Corporation was producing.
Parsons also pioneered adhesive bonding in metal aircraft structure then built the first all-composite airplane. His technology revolutionized the production of conventional and controllable-pitch ship propellers. He produced the gigantic fuel lines for the Saturn booster that started the U.S. astronauts toward the moon.