Dafydd Williams

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Dafydd Williams
Dafydd Williams.jpg
CSA Astronaut
Nationality Canadian
Status Retired[1]
Born (1954-05-16) May 16, 1954 (age 64)
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Other occupation
Medical Doctor
Time in space
28d 15h 47 m
Selection 1992 CSA Group
Missions STS-90, STS-118
Mission insignia
Sts-90-patch.svg STS-118 patch new.png

Dafydd Rhys "Dave" Williams OC (born May 16, 1954[2]) is a Canadian physician, public speaker and a retired CSA astronaut.[3] Williams was a mission specialist on two space shuttle missions. His first spaceflight, STS-90 in 1998, was a 16-day mission aboard Space Shuttle Columbia dedicated to neuroscience research. His second flight, STS-118 in August 2007, was flown by Space Shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station. During that mission he performed three spacewalks, becoming the third Canadian to perform a spacewalk and setting a Canadian record for total number of spacewalks.[4] These spacewalks combined for a total duration of 17 hours and 47 minutes.[3]

In 1998, Williams became the first non-American to hold a senior management position within NASA, when he held the position of Director of the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Center.[3]


Williams attended high school in Beaconsfield, Quebec and earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from McGill University in 1976, a Master of Science in physiology, and a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery from McGill University in 1983. He completed a residency in family practice in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, in 1985 and obtained fellowship in emergency medicine from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, following completion of a residency in emergency medicine at the University of Toronto, in 1988.[3]

Medical career

Williams received postgraduate training in advanced invertebrate physiology at the Friday Harbor Laboratories of the University of Washington.[3] Subsequently, his interests switched to vertebrate neurophysiology when, for his master's thesis, he became involved in basic science research on the role of adrenal steroid hormones in modifying the activity of regions within the central nervous system involved in the regulation of sleep-wake cycles. While working in the Neurophysiological Laboratories at the Allan Memorial Institute for Psychiatry, he assisted in clinical studies of slow wave potentials within the central nervous system.[3]

His clinical research in emergency medicine has included studies evaluating the initial training and skill retention of cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills, patient survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, the early identification of trauma patients at high risk, and the efficacy of tetanus immunization in the elderly.[3]

In 1988 he became an emergency physician with the department of emergency services at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre as well as a lecturer with the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. He served as a member of the Air Ambulance Utilization Committee with the Ontario Ministry of Health both as an academic emergency physician and later as a representative of community emergency physicians. In addition, he has trained ambulance attendants, paramedics, nurses, residents, and practicing physicians in cardiac and trauma resuscitation as a course director in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) with the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation and in Advanced Trauma Life Support with the American College of Surgeons.[3]

From 1989 to 1990, he served as an emergency physician with the Emergency Associates of Kitchener-Waterloo and as Medical Director of the Westmount Urgent Care Clinic. In 1990 he returned to Sunnybrook as Medical Director of the ACLS program and coordinator of postgraduate training in emergency medicine. Subsequently, he became the Acting Director of the Department of Emergency Services at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Toronto, and Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto.[3] He remains active in life science and space medicine research, both as a Principal Investigator and as a Co-Investigator.

In April 2008, Williams was recruited by McMaster University as physician scientist where he was the director for the new McMaster Centre for Medical Robotics at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.[5]

On May 18, 2011, Williams became the new President and CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre to lead the facility into becoming a full-fledged teaching and research centre.

Astronaut career

Williams was selected by the Canadian Space Agency in June 1992. He completed basic training and in May 1993 was appointed manager of the Missions and Space Medicine Group within the astronaut program. His collateral duty assignments have included supervising the implementation of operational space medicine activities within the astronaut program and the coordination of the Canadian Astronaut Program Space Unit Life Simulation (CAPSULS) Project. In February 1994 he participated in a 7-day space mission simulation. During this CAPSULS Project he was the Principal Investigator of a study to evaluate the initial training and retention of resuscitation skills by non-medical astronauts. He was also assigned as one of the crewmembers and acted as the crew medical officer. He announced his retirement as an astronaut on 29 February 2008, effective from 1 March 2008.[1]

NASA experience

The NEEMO 9 Crew: Left to right (rear): Dr. Tim Broderick, Williams; front: Nicole Stott, Ron Garan.

In January 1995, Williams was selected to join the 1995 international class of NASA mission specialist astronaut candidates. He reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995 and completed training and evaluation in May 1996. On completing basic training, he was assigned to work technical issues for the payloads/habitability branch of the astronaut office.

From July 1998 to November 2002, Williams served as Director of the Space and Life Sciences directorate with responsibility for research in both physical and biomedical space sciences at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). With this appointment, he became the first non-American to hold a senior management position within NASA.[3] Overall crew medical safety was one of his principal concerns, in addition to flight medical operations and JSC occupational and environmental health. His programs were directed toward protecting astronauts from the hazards of the space environment, including space radiation and microgravity, in addition to maintaining their medical, physical, and psychological well-being while aloft and on return to Earth. His other oversight responsibilities were in the fields of telemedicine, 3-D tissue culture/regeneration in microgravity, the curatorial management of extraterrestrial materials, and of qualifying humans for very long space journeys and ensuring their safe return to Earth.

Williams served as an aquanaut on the first NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) crew aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory in October 2001.[4][6] During this mission, he was thrilled to shake hands underwater with Canadian underwater explorer Joe MacInnis.[7] Williams was originally scheduled to command NEEMO 7 in October 2004, but was replaced by back-up crewmember and fellow CSA astronaut Robert Thirsk due to Williams undergoing review of a temporary medical issue.[8][9] In April 2006, Williams commanded the NEEMO 9 mission. During this eighteen-day mission, the six-person crew developed lunar surface exploration procedures and telemedical technology applications.[4][10]

Williams undergoing a pulmonary function test during the Neurolab mission.


Williams was mission specialist 3 on STS-90 Neurolab (April 17 to May 3, 1998). During the 16-day Spacelab flight, the seven-person crew aboard space shuttle Columbia served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments focusing on the effects of microgravity on the brain and nervous system. The STS-90 flight orbited the Earth 256 times, covered 6.3 million miles, and logged Williams over 381 hours in space.[11]


Williams was assigned to the crew of STS-118 (August 8 to 21, 2007), an assembly mission to the International Space Station. He completed three spacewalks during this mission, and set two new records during his final EVA on Saturday, 18 August: he is the Canadian with the most spacewalks (3); and he passed Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield in total EVA time. Williams ended Saturday's EVA with a total of 17 hours, 47 minutes of extravehicular time.[12] He was the second Canadian to lead an EVA, after Chris Hadfield, who led an EVA during STS-100.[13]

Awards and honours

He is a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the Ontario Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Aerospace Medical Association, the Canadian Society for Aerospace Medicine, and the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute. Past affiliations include the Society for Neuroscience, the New York Academy of Science, and the Montreal Physiological Society.[3]

Williams was awarded the Commonwealth Certificate of Thanks in 1973 and the Commonwealth Recognition Award (1975) for his contribution to the Royal Life Saving Society of Canada. Academic awards include the A.S. Hill Bursary, McGill University, in 1980; the Walter Hoare Bursary, McGill University, in 1981; and the J.W. McConnell Award, McGill University, from 1981 to 1983. He was named Faculty Scholar in 1982 and University Scholar in 1983 by the faculty of medicine at McGill University. In 1983, he also received the psychiatry prize and the Wood Gold Medal from the Faculty of Medicine and was named on the dean's honor list by the physiology department, at McGill University, for his postgraduate research.[3] He was twice awarded the second prize for his participation in the University of Toronto Emergency Medicine Research Papers Program, in 1986, and 1988,[3] and received top honors in that competition in 1987.[citation needed]

in 2011, Williams was inducted into the Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame.[14] The following year, Williams was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013 for his work in space exploration.[15]

Personal life

Williams was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan[3] and is married to Cathy Fraser of Pointe-Claire, Quebec.[16][17] They have two children, Evan (born in 1994) and Olivia (born in 1997)[16] and a nephew, Theo (born in 2003). He enjoys flying, scuba diving, hiking, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, downhill and cross-country skiing.[3] As his name indicates, he is of Welsh descent.[18][19]


  1. ^ a b "Canadian Astronaut Dr. Dave Williams Retiring" (Press release). Canadian Space Agency. February 29, 2008.
  2. ^ "CSA - Dr. Dafydd (Dave) Rhys Williams". Canadian Space Agency. March 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Astronaut Bio: Dafydd (Dave) R. Williams". NASA. March 2008.
  4. ^ a b c "Astronaut Dave Williams Biography". astronautdavewilliams.com. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  5. ^ "Canadian astronaut lands at McMaster". McMaster University Daily News. April 15, 2008. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011.
  6. ^ NASA (March 21, 2006). "NEEMO History". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  7. ^ Williams, Dave (October 22, 2001). "CSA - Aquarius: Neemo Project - Dave Williams - Journal". Canadian Space Agency. Archived from the original on January 1, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  8. ^ Canadian Space Agency (October 4, 2004). "CSA - Astronaut Robert Thirsk to Replace Dave Williams for NEEMO 7". Canadian Space Agency. Archived from the original on August 24, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  9. ^ NASA (October 9, 2004). "Thirsk replaces Williams as NEEMO 7 commander". Spaceflight Now Inc. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  10. ^ NASA (2006). "NASA's Undersea Crew is Heads Above Water". NASA. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  11. ^ "Spaceflight mission report: STS-90". Spacefacts.de.
  12. ^ Blatchford, Andy (2007-08-19). "Astronaut Dave Williams sets Canadian record with third spacewalk". CanadaEast Telegraph-Journal. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  13. ^ Canadian Space Agency. "Chris Hadfield: Walking in Space". Canadian Space Agency. Archived from the original on 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2007-08-22.
  14. ^ "Member Profiles". Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  15. ^ Lea, David (4 July 2013). "Oakville astronaut named to Order of Canada". Brampton Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 July 2013.
  16. ^ a b "Dafydd Williams: Family". Spacefacts.de. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  17. ^ Martin, James (August 2008). "Dr. Spaceman : McGill News". McGill News. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  18. ^ "BBC News - Astronaut takes dragon into space". July 17, 2007. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  19. ^ "Dafydd Rhys Williams on BBC Wales Today". BBC. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

External links

  • Dave Williams' Website

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