William B. Whiddon
1956 - 2005
"Sic itur ad astra"
family legend is that Bill became fascinated with astronomy at
the age of three when his mother took him to a planetarium show
in Dallas, Texas. His passion for science, space and astronomy
continued through elementary, junior high and high school in Denton,
Texas and throughout his life. He graduated from North Texas State
University in 1982 with a degree in physics. While completing
his degree, he taught astronomy labs to thousands of students
as the “resident astronomer” at the school’s
observatory located at an old Nike missile base north of town.
Bill spent his entire 23-year working career as a systems engineer
at TRW, later known as Northrop Grumman Space Technology. He ended
his career as the Chief Engineer for the James Webb Space Telescope,
a dream job for someone who had loved astronomy and telescopes
since he was a child.
When Bill was diagnosed with CLL, a chronic form of leukemia,
he was determined to enjoy life to its fullest. Starting in 1998,
he traveled to every total solar eclipse — Aruba, Turkey,
Zambia, Australia, the South Pacific, and even observed one eclipse
from a charter flight over Antarctica. In the non-eclipse years,
he threw in a few more astronomy-related trips, including an annular
solar eclipse in Costa Rica, the opposition of Mars viewed from
Bolivia, the transit of Venus viewed from Italy, and the highlight
of them all, a meteorite expedition to Antarctica which included
a visit to the South Pole.
An accomplished astrophotographer, Bill’s comet and solar
eclipse photographs have been published in several well-known
astronomy magazines and books.
Bill is greatly missed by his wife, Nina.