Laurence R. Young

Photo: Laurence Young
Apollo Program Professor (Post Tenure) of Astronautics
Professor of Health Sciences and Technology
Affiliate Faculty, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science

Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139

lry [at]
Administrative Assistant
Financial Officer

Laurence R. Young is the Apollo Program Professor Emeritus of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was the founding Director (1997-2001) of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and currently serves as the Head of Science Education for the NSAS supported Translational Research Institute for Space Health. He founded the Harvard-MIT HSTPh.D. program in Bioastronautics.  Dr. Young was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine of the NAS and is a full member of the International Academy of Astronautics. He received an A.B. from Amherst College in 1957; a Certificate in Applied Mathematics from the Sorbonne, Paris as a French Government Fellow in 1958; S.B. and S.M. degrees in Electrical Engineering and the Sc.D. degree in Instrumentation from MIT, from 1957-1962.

In 1957 he was with the Sperry Gyroscope Company in the development of flight control systems. From 1958 to 1962 he was a member of the Research Staff at MIT where he worked on inertial guidance systems at the Instrumentation Laboratory and on problems of man-machine interaction at the Electronic Systems Laboratory. During 1961 he did eye movement research at the School of Medicine, University of Puerto Rico. He joined the MIT faculty in 1962, co-founded the Man-Vehicle Laboratory - now the Human Systems Laboratory - which does research on the visual and vestibular systems, visual-vestibular interaction, flight simulation, space motion sickness and manual control and displays. In 1991 Professor Young was selected as a Payload Specialist for Spacelab Life Sciences 2. He spent two years in training at Johnson Space Center and served as Alternate Payload Specialist during the October 1993 Space Shuttle mission. In 1995 he was appointed as the first holder of a new MIT chair, the Apollo Professor of Astronautics. He was Chairman of the Harvard-MIT Committee on Biomedical Engineering and Physics and the Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Engineering. From 1972-1973 Professor Young was a Visiting Professor at the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and the Zurich Kantonsspital, and a Visiting Professor at the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, Paris. During 1987-88 he was a Visiting Scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, and a Visiting Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. He was a visiting professor at the College de France, Paris, 2002, and the Universite de Provence, Marseille, 2009.

He was a Lecturer at Harvard Medical School and continues on the faculty of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and MIT’s Institute of Medical Engineering and Science. Dr. Young has been active on many professional and government committees and is a member, and former chair of the NASA NIAC (NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts) External Council. His other  government service includes the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board for which he chaired the Airlift Panel and received the Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, the Space Medicine and Biology Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, NASA's Life Science Advisory Committee and the NIH Training Committee on Biomedical Engineering. He chaired the NRC Vestibular Panel of the Summer Study on Life Sciences in Space in 1977 and the Life Sciences Group of NASA's Task Force on Scientific Uses of the Space Station. He serves on several NASA Advisory panels relating to life sciences and the Space Station. He served on the Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine) Standing Committee on Aerospace Medicine and the Medicine of Extreme Environments (CAMMEE) and chaired the reviews of NASA’s Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks in 2014-15 He served on the NASA Committee on Space Station and has been a member of the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, Air Force Studies Board, and the Committee on Hearing, Bioacoustics and Biomechanics and the Space Science Board Planning Committee for the International Space Year. He is also a member of the Bárány Society for vestibular research (honorary member), the Human Factors Society, and the Aerospace Medical Association. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, The Biomedical Engineering Society, The American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and the Explorers Club, and was selected by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for its 1982 Dryden Lectureship in Research and its 1992 Jeffries Award. NASA recognized his achievements with a Space Act Award in 1995 for his development of an expert system for astronauts. The Aerospace Human Factors Association awarded him its Paul Hansen award in 1995.  He was President of the Biomedical Engineering Society in 1979 and was its Alza Lecturer in 1984. In May 1998, for his contributions to neuroscience, he received the prestigious Koetser Foundation Prize in Zurich. In 2013 he received the Pioneer Award from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. In 2018, he received the AIAA de Florez Award for Flight Simulation, and the Aerospace Medical Association's Professional Excellence Award for Lifetime Contributions.

Professor Young's contributions to the aerospace medical field have been in instrumentation (eye movement measurement) and basic and applied research in the field of vestibular function. His psychophysical work on semicircular canal and otolith function led to models that are applied to flight simulator motion control and are being extended to include visually-induced motion effects.  Dr. Young is also recognized for his leadership in the aerospace human factors including applications of manual control theory, and especially for his research on adaptive manual control. His work on the vestibular system has led to his role as principal investigator for experiments on vestibular adaptation to weightlessness conducted aboard five Spacelab missions for which he received NASA's Public Service Group Achievement Award. An author of more than 200 journal articles, he served on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience and as associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Space Science and Technology. He is Editor of the Encyclopedia of Bioastronautics now under development for publication by Springer.

Professor Young has also been active in ski injury research. He was a Director of the International Society for Skiing Safety and chaired the Ski Injury Statistics Subcommittee of the American Society for Testing and Materials Committee on Snow Skiing before being elected Committee Chairman in 1987. He received the United States Ski Association Award of Merit and the Best Research Paper Award from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Video: Prof. Young speaks at 2013 Bronx High School of Science Graduation (starts at 52.50) 

Laurence Young
Academic Degrees

A.B, 1957, Amherst College Certificate in Applied Mathematics, 1958, The Sorbonne S.B., 1957, Massachusetts Institute of Technology S.M., 1959, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sc.D., 1962, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Honors and Awards

National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, International Academy of Astronautics, AIAA Dryden Lecturer in Research, Fellow of IEEE, Biomedical Engineering Society, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, Explorers Club, Barany Society, National Space Biomedical Research Institute Pioneer Award.

Society Memberships

IAA, BMES, ASMA, Society for Neuroscience, Barany Society

Positions Held at MIT

Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Director of HST PhD Program in Bioastronautics

Positions Held outside MIT

Founding Director, National Space Biomedical Research Institute; Alternate Payload Specialist Astronaut, US Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, Visiting Professor – ETH (Zurich), Stanford, College de France, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine; Visiting Professor, Université de Provence (Marseille).

Specialization and Research Interests

Bioastronautics, aerospace human factors, long duration space flight, artificial gravity

Teaching Interests

Human Factors Engineering (16.400), Sensory-Neural Systems: Spatial Orientation from End Organs to Behavior and Adaptation (16.430J), Engineering Apollo: The Moon Project as a Complex System (16.895J), Modern Space Science and Engineering (16.S26)

Lab/Research Group Affiliation