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William E. Thornton Papers


Dr. William Edgar Thornton was born in 1929 Faison, North Carolina. After receiving a BS in physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel, he was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force where he helped develop air-to-air missile combat radar systems for fighter pilots. Thornton helped organize and then directed Del Mar Engineering's avionics division. He then went to medical school, again at University of North Carolina. Dr. Thornton then rejoined the Air Force to pursue research in aerospace medicine, and continued that work with NASA where he served on Skylab missions and as a mission specialist on two space shuttle missions aboard the Challenger.Papers consist of materials created by o ... (more below)

Title

William E. Thornton Papers

Collection Number

PC.2054

Date(s)

1950-2009

Language

English

Physical Description
14.0 cubic feet
Physical Description
Boxes
34.00
Film cans
2.00
Flat boxes
1.00
Flat kentucky boxes
3.00
Abstract

Dr. William Edgar Thornton was born in 1929 Faison, North Carolina. After receiving a BS in physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel, he was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force where he helped develop air-to-air missile combat radar systems for fighter pilots. Thornton helped organize and then directed Del Mar Engineering's avionics division. He then went to medical school, again at University of North Carolina. Dr. Thornton then rejoined the Air Force to pursue research in aerospace medicine, and continued that work with NASA where he served on Skylab missions and as a mission specialist on two space shuttle missions aboard the Challenger.

Papers consist of materials created by or collected by Dr. William E. Thornton during his career in U.S. Air Force, Del Mar Avionics, medical school, and at NASA. These records concern Dr. Thornton's interests and professional work. Materials include his work developing the Radar Optical Firing Error Indicator for the Air Force to train fighter pilots in air-to-air missile combat. They also include his research in medical subjects like telemetry, cardiography, nuclear magnetic resonance, and aerospace exercise. Dr. Thornton's medical interests continued from his studies in medical school all the to the end of his career with NASA as he investigated aspects of these subjects in aerospace medicine. The collection is made up of correspondence, research, patent paperwork, news clippings, photographic prints and negatives, and film footage of early test projects, with the dates ranging from 1950 to 2009.

Creator

Thornton, William Edgar

Repository

State Archives of North Carolina


The collection is arranged in nine (9) series following Dr. Thornton's curriculum vitae as follows: 1. U.S. Air Force Test Projects 2. Medical School, University of North Carolina 3. U.S. Air Force Aerospace Medicine 4. NASA 5. Del Mar Engineering 6. Wright State University 7. University of Houston, Clear Lake 8. Unfinished Manuscripts 9. Personal Papers


Available for research


Gift

Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.


Processed by Kenneth Dasher, October 2012 to December 2012.

Finding Aid by Kenneth Dasher, December 2012; some additions made by Fran Tracy-Walls, September 2014.


William Edgar Thornton was born in Faison, North Carolina on April 14, 1929. He received a BS in physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1952. Upon graduation, Thornton was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and serve as the officer-in-charge of the Instrumentation Lab at the Flight Test Air Proving Ground at Eglin Air Force Base. There he helped develop the Radar Optical Firing Error Indicator (ROFEI) system to aid in air-to-air combat training. In 1956 he joined Del Mar Engineering Labs to organize and direct the company's Avionics Division. While at Del Mar, Thornton continued as a consultant with the Air Force at Air Proving Ground Command. Thornton's association with Del Mar Avionics has continued throughout his career.

He returned to the University of North Carolina in 1959 to pursue medicine, and received his MD in 1963. While in medical school, Thornton helped develop telemetry systems for medicinal use. Dr. Thornton returned to active duty with the Air Force and was assigned to the Aerospace Medical Division at Brooks Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. In 1967 Dr. Thornton applied and was selected for astronaut training with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Dr. Thornton developed and designed the first mass measuring devices for space. Dr. Thornton was a physician crew member of the Skylab Medical Experiments Altitude Test, as well as a member of the astronaut support crew for the Skylab 2, 3, and 4 missions performing experiments in mass measurement, anthropometric measurements, hemodynamics, and physical conditioning.

Dr. Thornton is a veteran of two spaceflights, both on board the Challenger shuttle, logging 313 hours in space. He served as a mission specialist on STS-8 in 1983 and STS-51B in 1985. Dr. Thornton holds more than 35 issued patents ranging from military weapons systems to the first real-time EKG computer analysis. His space-related patents include the first in-flight mass measurement devices and improved lower body negative pressure apparatus such as the Shuttle treadmill for in-flight exercise. Many of his devices are still scheduled for flight. Dr. Thornton retired from NASA in 1994. Dr. Thornton is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and is also an adjunct professor at University of Houston, Clear Lake.


[Identification of item],in PC.2054, Dr. William E. Thornton Papers, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, USA.


Dr. William Edgar Thornton, Boerne, Texas, 2010.


Additional information on topics found in this collection may be found in the Manuscript and Archives Reference System (MARS)  http://mars.archives.ncdcr.gov/BasicSearch.aspx

Dr. Thornton has placed many materials dealing with his research in aerospace medicine with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Contact the reference desk at the Moody Medical Library at 409-772-2372 for more information.


The papers consist of materials created by or collected by Dr. William E. Thornton during his career in U.S. Air Force, Del Mar Avionics, medical school, and at NASA. These records concern Dr. Thornton's interests and professional work. Materials include his work developing the Radar Optical Firing Error Indicator for the Air Force to train fighter pilots in air-to-air missile combat. They also include his research in medical subjects like telemetry, cardiography, nuclear magnetic resonance, and aerospace exercise. Dr. Thornton's medical interests continued from his studies in medical school all the to the end of his career with NASA as he investigated aspects of these subjects in aerospace medicine. The collection is made up of correspondence, research, patent paperwork, news clippings, photographic prints and negatives, and film footage of early test projects. The collection is arranged in the following nine series: 1. U.S. Air Force Test Projects 2. Medical School, University of North Carolina 3. U.S. Air Force Aerospace Medicine 4. NASA 5. Del Mar Engineering 6. Wright State University 7. University of Houston, Clear Lake 8. Unfinished Manuscripts 9. Personal Papers


  • Del Mar, Bruce E.
  • United States. Air Force.
  • United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  • Aerospace Medicine
  • Cardiography
  • Challenger (Spacecraft)
  • Del Mar Avionics Corporation
  • Del Mar Engineering
  • Kinesiology.
  • Radar--Military applications.
  • Radar--Optical Equipment
  • Skylab Program.
  • Space Shuttle Program (U.S.)
  • Brooks Air Force Base (Tex.)
  • Eglin Air Force Base (Fla.)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
  • University of Houston--Clear Lake
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Wright State University

Physical Description
6.0 boxes
Includes 1 box of 4x5 inch photographs, and 3 flat Kentucky boxes containing film footage.
Physical Description
Flat kentucky boxes
3.00

This series contains papers, photographs, and motion picture film relating to Dr. Thornton's first term of service with the United States Air Force. Dr. Thornton helped develop the Radar Optical Firing Error Indicator (ROFEI) system to aid in training fighter pilots in air-to-air missile combat. Materials in this series include papers and schematics showing the progression of the ROFEI system, patents related to the system, training films and footage of testing, and photographs of ROFEI hardware and the aircraft used in training.

Box: 1  
Folder: 1  
Air Defense Command Unit Proficiency Rocket Firing Training Program (April '54)

Box: 1  
Folder: 2  
Weapons and Gunnery Meet III Program Interceptor Phase
1954

Box: 1  
Folder: 3  
Interim Report on Evaluation of Firing Error Indicator

Box: 1  
Folder: 4  
Technical Schematics
1954

Box: 1  
Folder: 5  
Aerial Firepower Demonstration
May 1955

Box: 1  
Folder: 6  
Fighter Gunners and Weapons Meet IV Rocketry Phase
1935

Box: 1  
Folder: 7  
Interceptor Weapons F86D Newsletter
1955

Box: 1  
Folder: 8  
Yuma Air Promo Pamphlet

Box: 1  
Folder: 9  
USAF Papers
1953-1955

Box: 1  
Folder: 10  
USAF Tow Target Patent 2869120

Box: 1  
Folder: 11  
Patent 2909772

Box: 1  
Folder: 12  
Patent 2938201

Box: 1  
Folder: 13  
Patent 2971274

Box: 1  
Folder: 14  
Patent 2983915

Box: 1  
Folder: 15  
Patent 3149328

Box: 1  
Folder: 16  
Patent 3161877

Box: 2  
Photographs: Test projects, Equipment and testing missions, hardware, Radop

Box: 3  
Photographs: Test projects, Radop, Hardware and Testing Missions (4x5), including radar imaging prints; each photo is labeled with item level description on envelope

Box: 4  
Reel motion picture film 35mm and 16mm; Test missions and firepower demonstrations

Box: 5  
Reel motion picture film 35mm and 16mm; Test missions and firepower demonstrations

Physical Description
4.0 boxes
Includes 2 film cans holding 16 mm film.
Physical Description
Film cans
2.00

This series contains papers, photographs, and film related to Dr. Thornton's time in medical school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Papers include correspondence, research material, and his work on telemetry and telecardiography. Highlights include Dr. Thornton's work in developing the first real-time EKG computer analysis, and his prize-winning Telemetry EXhibit at the 1961 American Medical Association Annual Meeting.

Box: 6  
Rolls of photographic prints of ROFEI test footage including radar imagery

Box: 7  
Folder: 1  
Correspondence
1954-1962

Box: 7  
Folder: 2  
Correspondence
1962, and undated

Box: 7  
Folder: 3  
Technical Bulletin
1956-1963

Box: 7  
Folder: 4  
Request for Technical Information
1960-1967

Box: 7  
Folder: 5  
Med School Papers
1962-1967

Box: 7  
Folder: 6  
Alumni Association Certificate

Box: 7  
Folder: 7  
NCMH Health kit Electronic Switch
1956

Box: 7  
Folder: 8  
Telecardiography

Box: 7  
Folder: 9  
Holter Research Foundation
1962

Box: 7  
Folder: 10  
Cardiac Work

Box: 7  
Folder: 11  
Measurements of the work of the Heart

Box: 7  
Folder: 12  
Cardiotouch

Box: 8  
Folder: 1  
EKG Tape Recorder and Cardiotouch

Box: 8  
Folder: 2  
Telecardiography Mini Tape Recorder

Box: 8  
Folder: 3-14  
EKG Telemetry

Box: 8  
Folder: 15  
AMA Annual Meeting Program
1961

Box: 8  
Folder: 16  
Telemetry Exhibit AMA Annual Meeting
1961

Box: 8  
Folder: 17  
AMA Bulletins on Meetings (Photos)
1961

Box: 8  
Folder: 18  
Plastics for Electronics
1961

Box: 8  
Folder: 19  
Gastric Reflectometer
1961

Box: 9  
Folder: 1  
Magnetic Flowmeter

Box: 9  
Folder: 2  
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

Box: 9  
Folder: 3  
Medical Reference Material

Box: 9  
Folder: 4  
Photographic Slides

Box: 9  
Folder: 5-9  
UNC Early Medical Monitoring (Photographs included)

Box: 9  
Folder: 10  
Electrocardiac Computer Patent 3267934

Box: 10  
EKG Study film reels

Box: 11  
EKG Study film reels

Physical Description
4.0 boxes

This series contains materials tracing Dr. Thornton's continuing research in cardiography, telemetry, noise, nuclear magnetic resonance, and galvanic skin response as those investigations relate to the aerospace medicine. Also included are patents Dr. Thornton developed for the Air Force during this time.

Box: 12  
Various folders containing certificate in training in aerospace med; Absorption/photometry; blood flow; spectrophotometric studies; photometric/oxygen saturation/blood; spectral transmission red blood cells; multiple scattering of waves and optical phenomena; telemetry; manuscript- Personal Telemetry for Spacecraft; NMR

Box: 13  
Folder: 1  
Neural Aerospace Studies

Box: 13  
Folder: 2-4  
Artificial Neurons

Box: 13  
Folder: 5  
Earpiece Filters

Box: 13  
Folder: 6  
Earpiece Theory

Box: 13  
Folder: 7  
Noise/Dosimeter

Box: 13  
Folder: 8  
Electrodes

Box: 13  
Folder: 9  
Pneumo Cardiography

Box: 13  
Folder: 10  
Microcoolometer

Box: 13  
Folder: 11-12  
Audiometry

Box: 14  
Galvanic Skin Response and EEG

Box: 15  
Operated Amplifiers

Physical Description
7.0 boxes

This series contains papers and photographs related to Dr. Thornton's career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Dr. Thornton joined NASA in 1967 and retired in 1994. While at NASA, Dr. Thornton was involved with the Skylab missions, and served as a mission specialist on board the Space Shuttle Challenger during missions STS-8 and STS-51B. Papers in this series include correspondence, news clippings, reports and recommendations based on Dr. Thornton's research in aerospace medicine and kinesiology, newsletters, materials about the missions Dr. Thornton worked on, patents that Dr. Thornton developed for NASA, and a visual acuity study that he performed. Photographs in this series include official astronaut portraits, official mission prints from the Apollo missions, Skylab missions, and shuttle launches, and prints of Dr. Thornton performing experiments in space on board the Challenger shuttle. Two oversized awards have been placed in a flat box holding other certificates from the series of Dr. Thornton's personal papers. They are the Apollo Soyuz Test Project Award, 1975; and a NASA Superior Achievement Award for Phase Training Completion, 1977.

Box: 16  
Correspondence; Memoranda 1974-82;Rationale for Exercise in Space Flight; Dynamic Anthropometry;Bio Data of Astronauts; Newsletters; Voyager I Conference; SMEAT 1872; Skylab Awards; Test Project; Spacelab II Candidates; Crew Selection and Training; Telescope 1978; Spinoff Annual Report 1978; Polaroid's; Prints; Portraits; NAS Mission Official Prints and portraits including Dr. Thornton conducting research

Box: 17  
Guest Lecture Program; News clippings 1967-83; Aviation and Space Tech Clippings; News clippings Medical;Periodicals on Cardiovascular Disease; Medical Pamphlets; NASA Manual Trackmaster; Bioenergetics of Space Suits for Lunar Exploration; Blood Pressure; Blood Flow; Blood Volume; Noise Mgmt; Optical Instrumentation; Ergometers; Infrared Comm. / Photo Divides; Telemetry Exhibit AMA Annual Meeting 1961; NMR; Automatic Detection of Sleep EEG

Box: 18  
Patents; Articles used in research; audio research (13 folders); Effect of Light (6 folders)

Box: 19  
Light Sensors (10 folders); Correspondence with Joe Kerwin 2006-09 (5 folders)

Box: 20-22  
Visual Acuity Study

Physical Description
7.0 boxes

This series contains materials related to Dr. Thornton's professional relationship with Del Mar Engineering (now Del Mar Avionics). Dr. Thornton began working with the company during his first stint in the Air Force while developing the ROFEI system. He subsequently went to work for the company to organize and direct their Avionics Division. Dr. Thornton maintained an ongoing professional interaction with Bruce Del Mar and his company throughout his career. Contents of this series include correspondence, security clearances, contracts, company data, product brochures, and patents related to Dr. Thornton's work with Del Mar. Highlights of this series include Del Mar's work on the Radar Optical Scorer during the mid 1950s, cardiographic research and work on the Holter Recorder, and research into a caloric balance weight control system for diabetics.

Box: 23  
Correspondence
1951-1989

Box: 24  
Correspondence 1990-2008; Company Data; Employment Agreement; Security Clearance 1962-1967

Box: 25  
Organization Sales Contracts and Product Support Dept.; Service Instructions; Radar Set; Radar Optical Scorer Work with USAF

Box: 26  
Radar Optic Scorer Handbooks and Brochure; Radar System Prints; Periodicals; Simple Computer Techniques in Data Recording; Gas Analyzer Research

Box: 27  
Computation Notebooks; Cardio Research- Holter Recorder; Dynamic ECG

Box: 28  
Research; Travel; Company Events; Patents; Photographs

Box: 29  
Company Product Brochures (both radar and medical)

Physical Description
1.0 boxes

This series contains materials relating to the biology course Dr. Thornton taught at the University of Houston at Clear Lake in 1989 and 1990. The course was titled Human Factors in Manned Space Flight. Papers include lecture notes, attendence rosters, and student grades.

Box: 30  
Biology Course Outlines, Tests, Grades

Physical Description
1.0 boxes
This series concerns Dr. Thornton's effort to place papers dealing with his work at NASA with the archives at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

This series contains papers relating to Dr. Thornton's efforts to place records of his work with NASA at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

Box: 31  
Correspondence and Papers 1991-1996; Ross A. McFarland Collection info

Physical Description
2.0 boxes

This series contains work on three books that Dr. Thornton began but never finished. The first is an autobiography that Dr. Thornton titled The Moon Has Two Faces. Dr. Thornton produced about four chapters that covered his career with Air Force and medical school. The second unfinished manuscript was to be a book entitled Man In Space. The third manuscript described The Human Body in Weightlessness. These two works seem to have developed out of Dr. Thornton's teaching at University of Houston at Clear Lake.

Box: 32  
Moon has Two Faces

Box: 33  
Man in Space; Human Body in Weightlessness; 1989 CV; Radio Repair; Correspondence; Articles and News clippings; Awards

Physical Description
2.0 boxes
Includes one flat box.
Physical Description
Flat boxes
1.00

This series contains papers outside of Dr. Thornton's professional career. One exception is a detailed curriculum vitae covering Dr. Thornton's career through 1989. The other papers in this series include certificates and community honors Dr. Thornton received, papers on Dr. Thornton's interest in radio repair, newsclippings, and magazine articles.

Box: 34  
Oversized Awards and Certificates from NASA, UNC, and Texas