David Macaulay

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David Macaulay
Macaulay in November 2012
Macaulay in November 2012
Born (1946-12-02) December 2, 1946 (age 77)[1]
Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England[2]
OccupationIllustrator, writer
EducationRhode Island School of Design (B.A.)
GenrePicture books
SubjectArchitecture, engineering, history
Notable works
Notable awards

David Macaulay (born 2 December 1946)[1] is a British-born American illustrator and writer. His works include Cathedral (1973), The Way Things Work (1988), and its updated revisions The New Way Things Work (1998) and The Way Things Work Now (2016). His illustrations have been featured in nonfiction books combining text and illustrations explaining architecture, design, and engineering, and he has written a number of children's fiction books.

In 2006, Macaulay was a recipient of a MacArthur Fellows Program award and received the Caldecott Medal in 1991 for his book Black and White, published in 1990.

Early life and education[edit]

Macaulay was born in Burton upon Trent[2] and raised in Lancashire,[3] England. At the age of eleven, Macaulay emigrated with his family to Bloomfield, New Jersey, US.[1] He had an early fascination with how machines operated and made models and drew illustrations of them.[3][4]

After graduating from high school in Cumberland, Rhode Island, in 1964, he enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he received a bachelor's degree in architecture.[5] After graduating he decided against pursuing a career in architecture.[6] He spent his fifth year at RISD in the European Honors Program, studying in Rome. He then took jobs as an interior designer, a junior high school teacher, and a teacher at RISD before he began to create books.[4]



Macaulay is the author of several books on architecture and design. His first book, Cathedral (1973), was a history, extensively illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings, of the construction of a fictitious but representative Gothic cathedral. This was followed by a series of books of the same type: City (1974), on the construction of Verbonia, a fictitious but typical ancient Roman city; Pyramid (1975), a collection of diagrams and sketches illustrating the construction process of the pyramid monuments to the Egyptian Pharaohs;[7] Castle (1977), on the construction of Aberwyvern castle, a fictitious but typical medieval castle; Mill (1983), on the evolution of New England mills; and Mosque (2003), which depicts the design and construction of an Ottoman-style masjid. The September 11 attacks motivated Macaulay to create Mosque to show how the traditions of major religions have more in common than they have dividing them.[8] Cathedral, City, Pyramid, Castle, and Mill were later adapted into documentaries with animated period drama segments produced by Unicorn Productions, each of which aired sporadically on PBS from 1983 to 1994.[3][9][10][11]

Other books in this series are Underground (1976), which describes the building foundations and support structures (like water and sewer pipes) that underlie a typical city intersection,[12] and Unbuilding (1980), which describes the hypothetical dismantling of the Empire State Building in preparation for re-erection in the Middle East.[13][14]

Macaulay authored a children's book, The Way Things Work (1988, text by Neil Ardley). This was expanded and re-released as The New Way Things Work (1998) and The Way Things Work Now (2016).[1] The Way Things Work is his most commercially successful series and served as the basis for a short-lived educational television program.

His books often display a whimsical humor. Illustrations in The Way Things Work depict cave people and woolly mammoths operating giant-sized versions of the devices he is explaining.[15] Motel of the Mysteries, written in 1979 after the 1976–1979 exhibition of the Tutankhamun relics in the U.S., concerns the discovery by future archaeologists of an American motel and their ingenious interpretation of the building and its contents as a funerary and temple complex.[16] Baaa is set after the human race has somehow gone extinct. Sheep discover artifacts of lost human civilization and attempt to rebuild it. However, the new sheep-inhabited world develops the same side effects of economic disparity, crime, and war.[17] Macaulay considers concealing technology's inner mechanics as a growing problem for society, and aims to fight this trend with his work.[6][15]

To research his book The Way We Work, Macaulay spent years talking and studying with doctors and researchers, attending medical procedures, and laboriously sketching and drawing.[18] He worked with medical professionals like Lois Smith, a professor at Harvard University and researcher at Children's Hospital Boston, and medical writer Richard Walker to ensure the accuracy of both his words and his illustrations.[19] Anne Gilroy, a clinical anatomist in the departments of surgery and cell biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, consulted on the book. She said of Macaulay, "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."[20]

Other works[edit]

A mural designed by Macaulay was painted on a wall adjacent to Interstate 95 in Providence, Rhode Island. It depicted statues of famous Rhode Island citizens like Moses Brown and General Ambrose Burnside with an energetic dog who had knocked over a statue while chasing after a pigeon. It was on display from 2013 but painted over in 2017 because the Rhode Island Department of Transportation could no longer repair it after constant graffiti tagging.[21]

He has collaborated with the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials at Harvard University and the Boston Museum of Science to create illustrations for quantum materials. These aid in explaining visual information to researchers and a wider audience by establishing and using a consistent visual style.[22]


Macaulay's awards include: the MacArthur Fellows Program award (2006);[23] the Caldecott Medal, won for his book Black and White;[24][25][26] the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award; the Christopher Award, an American Institute of Architects Medal; the Washington Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award;[27] the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis; the Dutch Silver Slate Pencil Award; and the Bradford Washburn Award, awarded by the Museum of Science in Boston to exemplary contributors to science.[3] He was U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1984 and 2002.[28] Macaulay was honored with delivering the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture in 2008 by the American Library Association.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Macaulay currently lives in Norwich, Vermont.[2][29]


  • Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction (1973); winner of the 1975 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for children's non-fiction; one of The New York Times ten Best Illustrated Books, 1973; Caldecott Honor Book (1974); Childrens Book Showcase title (1974)[30]
  • City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction (1974)
  • Pyramid (1975); winner of the 1976 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award,[31] The Christopher Award and a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year, 1975[30]
  • Underground (1976); a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year (1976)[30]
  • Castle (1977); winner of the 1978 Caldecott Medal and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards.[31]
  • Great Moments in Architecture (1978)
  • Motel of the Mysteries (1979)
  • Unbuilding (1980)
  • Help! Let Me Out! (1982, David Lord Porter (Author), David MacAulay (Illustrator))
  • Mill (1983)
  • Baaa (1985)
  • Why the Chicken Crossed the Road (1987)
  • The Way Things Work (1988), text by David Macaulay and Neil Ardley; winner of the 1989 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award,[31] commended by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) as a notable book, 1989
  • Black and White (1990); Caldecott Medal Winner (1991)[32]
  • Ship (1994)
  • Shortcut (1995)
  • Rome Antics (1997)
  • The New Way Things Work (1998)
  • Pinball Science (1998) (CD-ROM video game)
  • Building the Book Cathedral (1999)
  • Building Big (2000)
  • Angelo (2002)
  • Mosque (2003)
  • The Way We Work (7 October 2008); Honor, 2009 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award[31]
  • Built to Last (2010)
  • Jet Plane: How It Works (2012)
  • Castle: How It Works (2012)
  • Toilet: How It Works (2013)
  • Eye: How It Works (2013)
  • How Machines Work: Zoo Break! (2015)
  • The Way Things Work Now (2016)
  • Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World (2019)[33]
  • Mammoth Science: The Big Ideas That Explain Our World, Tested by Mammoths (2020)

Artwork exhibitions[edit]


  • Castle (1983), PBS, host and narrator
  • Cathedral (1986), PBS, host and narrator
  • Pyramid (1988), PBS, host and narrator
  • Roman City (1994), PBS, host and narrator
  • Building Big (2000), PBS, host and narrator
  • Mill Times (2001), PBS, host and narrator
  • The Way Things Work (2001–2002), BBC, 26 episodes, animated and based on the book


  1. ^ a b c d "David Macaulay — Artists at NCCIL". NCCIL.org. The National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. 9 June 2018. Archived from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "MacArthur Fellows 2006". John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. September 2006. Archived from the original on 16 February 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d "Building Books: The Art Of David Macaulay". www.hrm.org. Hudson River Museum.
  4. ^ a b c "David Macaulay, Bestselling Author and Illustrator - HMH Books". hmhbooks.com. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Archived from the original on 28 May 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  5. ^ "The Way Macaulay Thinks | News | RISD". www.risd.edu. Rhode Island School of Design. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  6. ^ a b Chiang-Waren, Xian (17 September 2014). "In the Studio With David Macaulay". Seven Days. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  7. ^ "Pyramid". www.kirkusreviews.com. Kirkus Media LLC. 1 September 1975. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  8. ^ Hansen, Liane (9 November 2003). "Macaulay Returns to Sacred Space with 'Mosque'". NPR.org. NPR. Archived from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  9. ^ Unger, Arthur (30 September 1983). "The wonder and meaning of castles are brought to PBS". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 9 June 2018 – via csmonitor.com.
  10. ^ "David Macaulay DVD Combo: Pyramid + Castle + Mill Times + City + Cathedral DVDs". shop.pbs.org. PBS. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  11. ^ Winfrey, Lee (4 January 1989). "'Pyramid' Is A Towering Flight Of Imagination". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Order Underground, ISBN 0395340659 | HMH". www.hmhco.com. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  13. ^ Ceceri, Kathy (12 September 2011). "Remembering the Twin Towers: Two Movies for Kids and Adults". WIRED. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Order Unbuilding, ISBN 0395454255 | HMH". www.hmhco.com. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  15. ^ a b Onion, Rebecca (4 October 2016). "Curiosity in the Face of Immensity". Slate. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  16. ^ Rosenberg, Alyssa (15 July 2016). "In 'Motel of the Mysteries' America falls — and it doesn't actually matter". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  17. ^ Viorst, Judith (1 December 1985). "CHILDREN'S BOOKS". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  18. ^ "A Conversation with David Macaulay". hmhbooks.com. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  19. ^ Cooney, Elizabeth (4 August 2008). "Evolution of an anatomist". Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  20. ^ "The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body". Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  21. ^ Bramson, Kate. "'I did my best': David Macaulay saddened, but not surprised, by demise of R.I. highway mural". providencejournal.com. Providence Journal. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  22. ^ "David Macaulay Studio". CIQM.harvard.edu/. CIQM. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  23. ^ Lifson, Amy (1 November 2006). "Genius grant goes to David Macaulay". Humanities. National Endowment for the Humanities. Archived from the original on 22 May 2018. Retrieved 30 November 2016 – via HighBeam Research.
  24. ^ "Newberry and Caldecott honor authors, illustrators". The San Bernardino County Sun. San Bernardino, CA. AP. 16 January 1991. Retrieved 30 November 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  25. ^ "Caldecott Medal Acceptance Speech". hmhbooks.com. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Archived from the original on 7 November 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  26. ^ American Library Association: Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present. URL accessed 27 May 2009.
  27. ^ "Past Winners". childrensbookguild.org. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  28. ^ "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002". Austrian Literature Online (literature.at). The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. Gyldendal: IBBY. 2002. pp. 110–118. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  29. ^ "Winter 2006–2007". Vermont Life Catalog. Guide to back-issues – 2005 to 2009. Archived from the original on 18 August 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  30. ^ a b c Sterling, Mary Ellen (October 1992). Ancient Egypt. Teacher Created Resources. ISBN 9781557342928. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  31. ^ a b c d "The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, 1967-2018". teachingbooks.net. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  32. ^ "Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present". ala.org. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  33. ^ At Roaring Brook Press, May 7, 2019, ISBN 1596434775
  34. ^ "The Art of Drawing Architecture: An Interview with David Macaulay". 31 July 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  35. ^ Staff writer (28 October 2007). "Future Architects: Draw Your Own Conclusions; David Macaulay's Illustrations on Display". The Washington Post. Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 22 May 2018. Retrieved 30 November 2016 – via HighBeam Research.
  36. ^ Smee, Sebastian (5 April 2009). "Drawing attention to the illustrator: Exhibit shows how Macaulay works". The Boston Globe. Boston. Archived from the original on 22 May 2018. Retrieved 30 November 2016 – via HighBeam Research.

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