David Macaulay

1946 -

Born in England in 1946, David Macaulay immigrated to America as a young boy with his parents and siblings. Reflecting on his book, Crossing on Time, he writes: "In 1957, my parents made a momentous course correction to the life they knew by deciding to leave England for a new job in a faraway place called New Jersey. My sister, brother and I were not overly burdened by the complex emotions of leaving our local friends and scattered family. We simply followed instructions and eventually found ourselves walking the plank that connected British soil to a thousand-foot-long ocean liner called the S.S. United States… A majestic symbol of American ingenuity and prosperity, and the fastest ship in the world, it was also a testament to one man's vision and remarkable perseverance. At ten, I didn't care about any of that. I just wanted to see the Empire State Building."

Macaulay's early fascination with architecture and engineering grew with him. After graduating from high school in Rhode Island, his amateur passion for illustration and design became his profession. Upon graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BA in architecture, he spent a year studying in Rome. He taught at a junior high school and later at the Rhode Island School of Design he found his true calling as an illustrator and author, and through his books he continues to teach.

As a researcher of science and history, his commitment to accuracy in text and picture is unlike any other in the world of design and illustration. Being technically precise, however, does not constrain Macaulay's sense of whimsy and wonder. From the original Way Things Work on through to his artful depictions of human anatomy in its form and function as a marvel of design, Macaulay's curiosity cannot help but inspire the same in his readers. Speaking of Macaulay, Anne Gilroy, a clinical anatomist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who consulted on the book The Way We Work said, "His remarkable curiosity and meticulous research led him into some of the most complicated facets of the human body yet he tells this story with simplicity, ingenuity and humor." His use of Wooly Mammoths as, effectively, experimental physicists is surely an introduction to science that none of his fans, young and old, will ever forget.

This same animative force also drives his architectural books, feasts for the eyes and mind. In speaking of his book, Rome Antics, Macaulay reflects: "I draw to better understand things… I also make drawings to help people understand things… And that's what I do as an illustrator, that's my job. A book is not only a neat way of collecting and storing information, it's a series of layers. I mean, you always peel one layer off another; we think of them as pages, doing it a certain way. But think of them as layers. I mean, Rome is a place of layers—horizontal layers, vertical layers—and I thought, well just peeling off a page would allow me to—if I got you thinking about it the right way—would allow me to sort of show you the depth of layers… I could peel out a page of this palazzo to show you what's going on inside of it. But more importantly, I could also show you what it looks like at the corner of one of those magnificent buildings… So it becomes slightly three-dimensional." After musing on the roadblocks in the creative process he concludes: "So I went back to the notion of story, which is always a good thing to have if you're trying to get people to pay attention to a book and pick up information along the way."

We hope Macaulay continues to write and draw for many more years, so that we can all continue to delight in his imaginative stories and captivating illustrations, and as he said, 'pick up information along the way'.

—Johanna Bittle