Captain Walter L. Goldenrath, USN (retired) was the Navy's -rh Aerospace Physiologist. His medical career with the Navy began after his service with the Navy as a Naval Aviator in World War II (WWII) and after his graduation from the University of California, Berkeley Medical School (U.C. Berkeley).
As a Naval Reservist he was called to duty as a Naval Aviator during WWII where he flew search and rescue, reconnaissance and advance missions in the Pacific theatre, piloting the Navy's Consolidated PBY "Catalina" amphibian aircraft. After WWII he returned to medical school at U.C. Berkeley, graduated in 1949 and began a teaching career at the university. Again, he was called back to active duty during the Korean War where he served as an instructor for Naval Flight Surgeons at Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS). During this time he also performed research on the effects of Explosive Decompression and High G forces on pilots. After the Korean War had ended, he returned to teaching at U.C. Berkeley Medical School in California.
In 1955, he was asked to switch from reserve status to "Regular Navy" and accept the position of "Officer in Charge" of the Medical Division, North Island, NAS in San Diego, California. During this time he also performed double duty, while assigned to the Admiral's staff, as the "Officer in Charge" of personnel and flight safety equipment for all naval aviators under the command of the Admiral of Naval
Aviation, Pacific Fleet.
In 1967, he was appointed Director of the Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pennsylvania where he served until1971. At that time, he was asked to accept the assignment of "Special Assistant to the Director of Life Sciences" at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.
In 1975, Captain Goldenrath retired from the Navy where both he and his wife, Sylvia Goldenrath, were recognized by the Navy for their dedication and contributions during Captain Goldenrath's Naval career. At that time he was asked by the Director of NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Hans Mark, to stay on with NASA and become part of the new Technology Transfer Office in charge of all medical related issues. Captain Goldenrath accepted and served in this capacity until his final retirement in 1997.
During his 47 year career with both the United States Navy and NASA, Captain Goldenrath made major contributions to the fields of flight physiology and aerospace medicine including the following:
- Development of the Navy's first pressure suit used for high altitude flying by Naval aviators and by NASA astronauts during early space flights of the Mercury Program.
- Research and development of aircraft ejection seat systems.
- Research and development of flight suits and associated life support and survival equipment systems.
- Research with the University of Southern California in the effects of simulated space flight conditions through the use of chimpanzees (e.g., "Ham", one of the first astronaut chimps).
- Countermeasure research for health issues faced by astronauts in low gravity environments (e.g., bone demineralization, cardiovascular degeneration, loss of muscle mass, etc.).
- Conducted the first "Bed Rest Study" for women to see how they would respond to prolonged exposure to low gravity environments (e.g., space flight).
- The transfer of NASA developed technology through inquiries from the public, universities, industry and other federal agencies. In this capacity he helped people from around the world find medical answers to their medical disorders and problems. He was responsible for putting patients, their doctors and researchers together to develop solutions to difficult medical problems.