The Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium was the brainchild of three men in the mid-1960’s.  William Shimandle of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory had the consulting and summer services of Professor Richard Pefley from the University of Santa Clara.  They were involved in a contract with Lockheed Missiles & Space and Dr. George Herzl of Lockheed.

These three had a common interest in mechanisms.  At the time, there was no technical society devoted to aerospace mechanisms, and recognizing the need, they set out to do something about it.  Dr. Herzl was the driving force to organize the AMS, and the first conference was held at the University of Santa Clara.  The symposia were initiated in 1966 by Lockheed Missiles & Space Company, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Santa Clara to provide a forum for technological interchange among specialists active in aerospace mechanisms.  The response to the first AMS was inspiring, and after the second AMS it became necessary to find larger facilities.

Dr. William Pickering agreed to host the 3rd AMS at JPL.  William Schimandle had accepted another JPL assignment and Geoff Robillard (then Division Manager of 35) assigned Peter Lyman as the Symposium Technical Representative and Paul Bomke as the Symposium Administrative Representative for JPL.  Dr. Pickering advised them, in essence, “do it right and make it representative of the Laboratory.”

After the 3rd AMS, sometime in 1969, Dr. William Pickering and Dr. John Clark suggested the symposia be held at participating NASA centers with each center in succession acting as host and sponsor.  This was proposed in order to increase the visibility of the symposia, spotlight activities at the host center, and encourage participation by spreading travel costs of attendees.  Arrangements for this could not be concluded in time for the 4th AMS, which was held at the University of Santa Clara.  The AMS has rotated between NASA centers ever since.

The University of Santa Clara withdrew as sponsor in November, 1971, as Richard Pefley felt that a larger institution could more actively participate as sponsor.  Caltech, with Professor Ernest E. Sechler as the primary contact, stepped in to fill the academia sponsor role.  David Welch became the Administrative Chairman and was active until the mid-1980’s.  Caltech has subsequently withdrawn as sponsor in 1993.

Dr. Herzl passed away in 1972.  On June 26, 1973, Dr. Bruce Gilroy Wrenn was selected as General Chairman of the AMS. Soon thereafter, Dr. Charles Coale became General Chairman.  Charles was General Chairman until 1994, and then on the organizing committee until passing away on August 24, 1997.

Al Rinaldo served as the Operations Chairman from 1966 until his retirement on July 31, 1983.  Joe Wilson, supervisor of the Mechanisms & Separation Analysis group at LMSC, became the operations Chairman.  Stu Loewenthal became Operations Chairman when Joe went on to another assignment at LMSC, until 1994 when Stu became General Chairman and Ed Boesiger became Operations Chairman.

Anne Moiseff was the administrative aide for the symposium at Lockheed for many years (1966 to at least 1983).  Ed Wegner has been the industrial artist in charge of the printing of the call for papers and programs from the 1st AMS up to the 31st.  Jeff Boissier has assumed the printing duties since 1998.

Stuart H. Loewenthal has been active on the organizing committee since 1986, along with Ed Boesiger since 1991.  In 2014, Ed Boesiger became the General Chairman. After the 47th AMS in 2024, Ed Boesiger retired and Jonathan Wood became the General Chairman.