The Man who Helped Make NASA: Dr. Sherman P. Vinograd

On July 29, 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act creating NASA. In the fifty-five years since, NASA has accomplished incredible feats. The Southwest Collection is fortunate to house the papers of Dr. Sherman P. Vinograd, the former Chief of Medical Science and Technology Director of Biomedical Research at NASA from 1961 to 1979.

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Dr. Vinograd and his NASA colleagues convene with their Russian counterparts in 1973 in Star City, Moscow (now the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center).

Entitled the Sherman P. Vinograd Aerospace Exploration Papers, 1957-2010 and undated, the collection encompasses over twenty boxes of correspondence, financial materials, newspapers, photographs, printed materials, and reports, as well as artifacts and books. These items chronicle Dr. Vinograd’s early life, his early career as an M.D., his years as a physician and researcher at NASA, and the other professional organizations and projects in which he was involved both during and after these periods. The finding aid for this collection is available through Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO), as well as through the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library’s website.

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Glass data slides displaying the medical results of NASA’s early manned spaceflight program.

Dr. Vinograd served at NASA from the fall of 1961 until the spring of 1979. During those eighteen years he led the way through that department’s most fruitful medical research and engineering, vehicle development, and manned space flight. Among his many accomplishments was the establishment of the In-flight Medical Experiments Program in preparation for the Apollo missions. This program designed flight crew studies to evaluate human responses to spaceflight. Dr. Vinograd’s team also developed a supportive Research and Development Program that gathered and provided pertinent ground-based data that lead to the creation of NASA’s state-of-the-art medical measurement technology. Prominent among these creations is the Integrated Medical and Behavioral Laboratory Measurement System (IMBLMS). It produced the medical experiments conducted aboard the Gemini, Mercury, Apollo, and Skylab manned space flight programs. Carried aboard virtually all post-Apollo space vehicles by virtue of its rack and module design, the type of equipment used in these experiments was still used years later. Space-based research was not the limit of his work. He also fostered the continuing ground-based medical research program essential to NASA’s successes in ensuing decades, the documents for which can also be found in his papers.

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His greatest achievement was conceptualizing, establishing, and chairing the Space Medicine Advisory Group (SPAMAG), which was charged with defining the earth-based and space-based research and life-support requirements for a manned orbiting research laboratory. This Group designed a carefully planned study utilizing highly qualified, specialized members of the scientific community. They postulated an orbiting laboratory designed according to the needs of future human flight crews. This resulted in the creation of Skylab.

Interested researchers may contact our Reference Department via email or by phone at 806-742-9070.

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