Edward Carroll Stone, born in Knoxville, Iowa, on January 23, 1936, became JPL’s seventh director in January 1991. He received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1959, and moved to Caltech in 1964 as a research fellow. He joined the physics department faculty in 1967.
Stone’s research specialty was cosmic radiation. Known to exist from the beginning of the 20th century, it was not well understood. Earth’s atmosphere eliminates most of this radiation, so only high-altitude balloons, rockets and spacecraft could investigate it. He flew experiments on the United States' classified Discoverer (or Corona) series satellites that flew throughout the 1960s. These were in orbit essentially continuously during that decade and into the 1970s, allowing him to establish a nearly continuous record of phenomenon.
In 1972, JPL’s Bud Schurmeier, project manager for the Mariner-Jupiter-Saturn 1977 mission, later named Voyager, invited Stone to become the mission’s project scientist. Stone had proposed a cosmic ray experiment for the twin spacecraft and it had been accepted. As project scientist, Stone would have a much larger role in coordinating the efforts of all eleven experiment teams. He also had to handle liaison duties between the mission scientists and Schurmeier’s engineers. He had accepted on the condition that it be a part-time duty while he remained at Caltech.
The Voyagers’ spectacular encounters with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and finally, in 1989, Neptune, and Stone’s deft management of the frequently divergent aims of the mission scientists and project engineers, made him an obvious choice to succeed Lew Allen. He had also led the effort to fund and build the Keck Observatory in Hawaii during the late 1980s, which only enhanced his reputation.
Stone succeeded Lew Allen at the end of 1990. His decade as JPL director was tumultuous. He became director just as a few officials at NASA Headquarters began to balk at the high cost and slow pace of planetary missions. In 1992, the selection of Daniel S. Goldin as NASA administrator brought small, fast-paced missions into the mainstream. The number of spacecraft projects at JPL began to rise rapidly; within a few years, there were more approved projects than experienced project managers. Yet the lab’s budget shrank, and Stone had to downsize JPL by more than 1,400 people during his tenure.
Stone responded to these challenges by introducing Total Quality Management and process-based management techniques, and by emphasizing ongoing training. He dissolved the old Flight Projects Directorate that had been responsible for implementing all of JPL’s missions in the past, and allowed the project managers greater freedom to innovate. After the Mars Surveyor 1998 failures, however, he partly restored the flight projects organization and asked John R. Casani, Thomas R. Gavin and Matthew R. Landano, all Voyager hands, to codify appropriate project practices.
Stone stepped down as director in April 2001 and returned to Caltech’s physics department. He is still the Voyager project scientist. He is also the principal investigator on the Advanced Composition Explorer mission and was an experimenter on the Galileo and the Solar, Anomalous, Magnetospheric Particle Explorer missions. He is also still active in working to expand ground-based astronomy in the United States.