Roberta L. Bondar, OC, O.On, MD, PhD, FRCP, FRSC
Physician, scientist, astronaut and photographer
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Born in Sault Ste Marie on Lake Superior, Dr. Roberta Bondar embarked on a career of scientific pursuits beginning in high school. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture and zoology from the University of Guelph, and a master’s degree in experimental pathology at the University of Western Ontario. She completed her doctorate in neurobiology at the University of Toronto.
Bondar earned her medical degree at McMaster University with a special interest in space medicine. After completing her board certification in Neurology, she studied at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston, specializing in Neurophthalmology, how we see and record the world around us.
In 1983, she was one of the six original Canadian astronauts selected to train at NASA and in 1992 Bondar ascended into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. In her role as an international payload specialist she conducted life and material science experiments in space, becoming Canada’s first woman astronaut and the world’s first neurologist in space.
For more than a decade she headed an international medical research team studying the effects of short- and long-term space flight on cerebral blood flow in astronauts, where she was the first to record simultaneously blood flow to the brain and from the heart, beat by beat. Bondar and her team of researchers examined data obtained from astronauts returning from 24 missions to better understand the mechanisms underlying the ability of the body to recover from exposure to microgravity, and by extension, to provide insight into illnesses on Earth that share the same symptoms including a variety of neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke and Parkinson’s disease. Both NASA and the University of New Mexico collaborated in this research which included ground based studies that simulated conditions of spaceflight. Her space-developed technology has been used in clinical studies at the Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School.
Upon returning to Earth, Bondar wrote Touching The Earth, a book in which she speaks of her space experience and her love of the planet. Further honing her skills, she studied professional nature photography at the Brook’s Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. Her accomplishments in nature and landscape photography led the National Gallery of Canada to ask her to participate in its 1997 landmark exhibition, "Beauty of Another Order: Science In Photography." Roberta Bondar has published two other photography books on the Earth’s landscapes, Passionate Vision and Landscape of Dreams. Her two ongoing photography projects include: Portraits of Astronauts and the major deserts of the world.
Among her numerous commendations, Dr. Bondar has been honored as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame for her pioneering research in space medicine, and recognized with the Order of Canada and the NASA Space Medal. In addition, she has received 24 honorary doctorates from Canadian and American universities.
In 2003 Dr. Bondar was installed as the Chancellor of Trent
University, inducted into the International Women’s
Forum’s International Hall of Fame, recognized by
Time magazine as one of Canada’s Five Best Explorers,
named the Walter E. Dandy Distinguished Orator for the Congress
of Neurological Surgeons, and appointed Tetelman Fellow
at Yale University, in celebration of women’s space
achievements. She is featured on the 2003 Canada Post Roberta
Bondar Astronaut stamp.