William W.L. Taylor, a leader in space science education and co-founder of the INSPIRE Project that turned thousands of high school students into radio wave researchers, died of a heart attack July 16 at his home in Washington. He was 62.
A former chief scientist of NASA's Space Station Freedom, Dr. Taylor also was president of INSPIRE, one of the pioneering successes in NASA Sun-Earth Connection Education. INSPIRE, an acronym for Interactive NASA Space Physics Ionosphere Radio Experiments, engages high school students in observing and recording natural and man-made radio waves.
He also was active in the Radio Jove project, the District of Columbia Space Grant Consortium and the Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum.
Dr. Taylor and high school physics teacher William Pines created INSPIRE in 1989 to stimulate in students an appreciation for science and technology. The project has provided audio frequency radio receiver kits to more than 1,700 students and other groups over the past 16 years.
In 1992, students from nearly 1,000 schools set up a network of ground stations across the country to record data from an experiment on the ATLAS-1 space shuttle mission.
"It's a giant science fair," Dr. Taylor said at the time. "I don't think anything quite like this has even been done. There's no way we could afford to fund thousands of professionals. The students are helping us do research in space physics to an extent not possible without them."
Dr. Taylor, who went by Bill, was a native of Portland, Ore. He became captivated by physics at an early age and set his goals on becoming a space scientist. He received a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Redlands in California in 1965 and a master's degree in 1967 and PhD in 1973, both in physics, from the University of Iowa. His research focused on wave particle interactions in solar system plasmas.
From 1975 to 1978, Dr. Taylor worked at NASA headquarters as a program scientist for Spacelab 1. In 1978, he moved to Redondo Beach, Calif., to work for TRW as a department manager for space sciences. He returned to NASA headquarters in 1990 as the chief scientist for Space Station Freedom and visiting senior scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In 1996, Dr. Taylor accepted a position with Raytheon Information Technology and Scientific Service as project manager for the Goddard Space Science Data Operations Office contract. He later moved to the QSS Group Inc. in the same position.
He published more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals in the areas of space plasmas and magnetospheric physics. He was principal and co-investigator for numerous NASA missions and did education and public outreach for the IMAGE mission. He also was the lead U.S. scientist for ACTIVE, a U.S.-Soviet project.
Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Kathleen Franzen of Washington.