William S. Miller, 80

Aided at Apollo 11 lab

June 13, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

William Sinkabine Miller, a retired medical research scientist who helped run the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar mission's post-flight quarantine lab, died of cancer Sunday at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Timonium resident was 80.

Born in Berryville, Va., he earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology at the University of Maryland, College Park and a doctorate from George Washington University. He studied at the Harvard Business School and served in the Air Force in Japan.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Miller worked in military biological testing at Fort Detrick in Frederick. From 1968 to 1970, he lived in Houston on a special assignment and worked in medical research at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory within the Manned Spacecraft Center for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.

In an autobiographical sketch, Dr. Miller said he was responsible for setting up the biological testing laboratory and developing quarantine protocols to be used upon the astronauts' return to Earth in July 1969.

The astronauts were placed in quarantine after their lunar landing to test them for possible undiscovered pathogens that they might have been exposed to during their moon visit. They spent almost three weeks in confinement, first in a trailer and later in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, which Dr. Miller helped run.

Dr. Miller later hung autographed pictures of the Apollo 11 astronauts at his home.

He went on to serve as director of biological safety and control at the Becton Dickinson Research Center in Raleigh, N.C. When Becton bought the Baltimore pharmaceutical business of Hynson, Westcott and Dunning, he became president of the firm, located for decades at Charles and Chase streets.

"At times, he had hundreds of persons working for him and knew all of them by name," said his son, William Tucker Miller of Cockeysville. "He knew about their families. He genuinely cared about people."

He was also president of Baltimore County's Johnston Laboratories, the makers of BACTEC, a blood culture diagnostic instrument, when it was acquired by Becton Dickinson. He retired in 1993.

He was the author of many microbiology and virology journal articles.

In his free time, Dr. Miller was volunteer coordinator at Gunpowder Falls State Park for the Mountain Club of Maryland. The volunteers work to maintain the park's 20 miles of trails.

He enjoyed reading, golfing, sailing and extensive travel. He also took long walks in Scotland, England, France, Italy and Canada.

A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. today at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 58 years, the former Peggy Tucker; two daughters, Carol Lynn Miller of Raleigh, N.C., and Maggie Vera Caverly of Downingtown, Pa.; a sister, Frances Economos of Westminster; and six grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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