David Macaulay

Drawing To Explain The 'How' And The 'Why'

David Macaulay is perhaps best known for his award-winning international bestseller The Way Things Work. This highly accessible, visual guide to the workings of machines was dubbed “a superb achievement” by the New York Times. A new, almost completely updated version, The New Way Things Work, was released in 2016, with all new sections on the technology that most impacts our everyday lives today.

Macaulay, born in 1946, was 11 when his parents moved from England to Bloomfield, New Jersey. He found himself having to adjust from an idyllic English childhood to life in a fast-paced American city. During this time he began to draw seriously.

Macaulay received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and vowed never to practice architecture. After working as an interior designer, a junior high school teacher, and a teacher at RISD, Macaulay began to experiment with creating books. He published his first book, Cathedral, in 1973.

Following in this tradition, Macaulay created other books — including City, Castle, Pyramid, Mill, Underground, Unbuilding, and Mosque — that have explained the 'how' and the 'why' in a way that is both accessible and entertaining. From the pyramids of Egypt to the skyscrapers of New York City, Macaulay has created elaborate show-and-tells that demystify the human race’s great architectural and engineering accomplishments. Five of these titles have been made into popular PBS television programs.


Macaulay’s detailed illustrations and sly humor have earned him fans of all ages. His books have sold more than three million copies in the United States alone, and his work has been translated into a dozen languages. His many awards include the Caldecott Medal and Honor Awards, the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, the Christopher Award, and the Washington Post Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award. He was a two-time nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award and received the Bradford Washburn Award, presented by the Museum of Science in Boston to an outstanding contributor to science.

In 2006 Macaulay was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, given “to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.” As “an individual of distinction in the field of children’s literature,” Macaulay delivered the esteemed 2008 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, an honor bestowed on him by the American Library Association.