MacArthur Fellows Program

Michael H. Dickinson

Biophysicist | Class of 2001

Portrait of Michael H. Dickinson
Berkeley, California
38 at time of award
Published October 1, 2001

About Michael's Work

Michael Dickinson is a biologist whose research is unraveling the mysteries of insect flight. Dickinson’s investigations integrate a wide variety of scientific disciplines – muscle physiology, comparative anatomy, aerodynamics, biomechanics, neuroscience, and behavior – in an effort to produce a comprehensive understanding of this complex animal activity. He developed a robotic-fly model in which each of the parameters of wing movement could be carefully controlled and their effects on aerodynamics assessed. To understand how the fly’s brain controls these aerodynamic properties, Dickinson constructed a "virtual reality" arena where tethered flies can be subjected to a variety of visual and rotational stimuli in order to measure the compensatory neural responses.


Michael Dickinson received a Sc.B. (1984) from Brown University and a Ph.D. (1989) from the University of Washington. He is the Zarem Professor of Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology. Previously, he was on the faculty of the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago (1991-96) and a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley (1996-2002).

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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