Founded in 1950 by aerospace pioneer James S. McDonnell, the Foundation was established to "improve the quality of life," and does so by contributing to a generation of new knowledge through its support of research and scholarship. Established as the McDonnell Foundation and renamed the James S. McDonnell Foundation in 1984 in honor of its Founder, the Foundation has pursued its goals by supporting scientific, educational and charitable causes locally, nationally, and internationally.
Beginning with the tenure of President Emeritus John T. Bruer, the Foundation began to structure itself in such a way as to support scholarly research and collaboration. By providing funding in such fields as cognitive education and neuroscience, the Foundation sought to improve the quality of life for generations to come by providing the financial backbone of the discoveries of today. In 1999, the Foundation awarded 10 Centennial Fellowships in honor of "Mr. Mac's" 100th birthday in 5 separate fields.
Today, the James S. McDonnell Foundation continues to pursue the vision of the late Mr. Mac through its 21st Century Science Initiative. By supporting scholarly pursuits in fields such as human cognition and complex systems, the Foundation continues to seek out scholarly fields that hold promise and potential for future generations.
Since its inception, the McDonnell Foundation has awarded over $450M in grants. The Foundation does not publish an annual report. The most recent information available about the Foundation's financial position can be found here.