Peter “Steve” MacDonald, was the founder, CEO and President of CD-adapco, a global engineering software and services company headquartered in Melville, New York. Steve was a true visionary and pioneer in the engineering software industry.
He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1967 with a Degree in Engineering Physics, and from Carnegie Mellon in 1970 with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Steve began his career by initiating the use of advanced engineering software at a succession of naval and nuclear engineering companies. This led to an offer from EDS Nuclear to relocate to Long Island and lead their structural engineering team. Steve quickly began to see the potential of the “computer simulation” techniques they had been using in the nuclear industry to solve other complex engineering problems. In 1980, he brought together a small team of engineers to form the Analysis and Design Application Co. (adapco), which would later come to be known as CD-adapco.
Steve’s vision for the company since its inception was built on his philosophy that the true value of computer aided engineering (CAE) could only be achieved by providing simulations of the entire systems rather than individual components.This vision became the driving force of CD-adapco, and Steve quickly established a reputation for being able to solve the most difficult engineering problems in the industry.
Steve’s reputation was put to the test in the wake of the tragic Challenger accident in 1986. NASA was intent on establishing engineering analysis methods to insure the safety of future space shuttle missions. They turned to Steve and asked adapco to provide the numerical engineering analysis for all the joints in the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters. At the time, this was an enormously complex job and unparalleled in the industry.
Following those early successes, Steve and CD-adapco continued to revolutionize engineering processes with groundbreaking advancements in computational engineering simulation. Perhaps the most notable of these technological breakthroughs was the ability to simulate the physics of the incylinder combustion engine. This brought commercial success from automakers in Detroit and around the world, and allowed Steve to fund future technology development.
Steve’s innovative spirit drove the commercial success of the company. Under his leadership, CD-adapco has grown from three engineers in a Long Island attic to 40 offices around the world with 950 employees. CD-adapco software is currently used by over 3,200 companies worldwide, including 14 of the 15 largest carmakers, by all of the top 10 suppliers to the aerospace industry and by nine of the 10 largest manufacturers in the energy and marine sectors.
Throughout his career, Steve was seen as an engineering pioneer, a technical visionary and a charismatic leader. The reach of his achievements is astounding. Everyday CD-adapco software tools developed under his guidance are used to increase the safety and improve the performance of everything from aircraft to nuclear reactors. And the design of almost every automobile on the road today has been influenced by Steve MacDonald’s vision of engineering simulation. Steve passed away on September 2, 2015, but, in CD-adapco, he left a proud legacy of technological achievement that will live on forever.