Dr. Dave Williams was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and moved to Beaconsfield, Quebec on the West Island of Montreal at an early age.
As a child, his favorite book was Tom Sawyer; his younger years were spent fishing, camping, and enjoying the outdoors. He dreamt of becoming an astronaut when he was 7 years old after watching Alan Shepard become the first American to travel in space. His passion for exploration took him underwater when he started scuba diving at age 12. His childhood heroes included Canada’s famous diving physician Dr. Joe MacInnis, Jacques Cousteau, and the astronauts of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.
After graduating from Beaconsfield High School, he attended McGill University, pursuing a bachelor of science degree in neurobiology, a master of science degree in neurophysiology, followed by a doctorate of medicine and a master of surgery degree from the Faculty of Medicine, McGill University.
He completed a residency in family practice in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, followed by a fellowship in emergency medicine from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, after finishing a residency in emergency medicine at the University of Toronto. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
He worked at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre in Toronto as well as Grand River Hospital in Kitchener-Waterloo prior to joining the Canadian Space Agency in the second astronaut selection.
In April 1998, Dave Williams participated in his first spaceflight aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. During the 16-day flight, called Neurolab, the seven-person crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments. These experiments, dedicated to the advancement of neuroscience research, focused on the effects of microgravity on the brain and the nervous system.
After the Neurolab mission, Dave Williams held the position of Director of the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. With this appointment, he became the first non-American to hold a senior management position within NASA. He concurrently held a position as the first deputy associate administrator for crew health and safety in the Office of Space Flight at NASA Headquarters.
In October 2001, he became an aquanaut through his participation in the joint NASA-NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) undersea research mission, held in Aquarius, the world's only underwater research laboratory. During this seven-day NEEMO-1 mission, Williams became the first Canadian to have lived and worked in space and in the ocean.
In 2006, Dave Williams was assigned as the crew commander of the NEEMO-9 undersea research mission dedicated to assess new ways to deliver medical care to a remote location, as would be done in a long space flight. A year later, he flew on his second spaceflight STS-118 on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. During the mission, the crew successfully added a truss segment, a new gyroscope, and an external stowage platform to the station. The mission successfully activated a new system that enables docked shuttles to draw electrical power from the station to extend visits to the outpost. Dr. Williams took part in three of the four spacewalks, the highest number of spacewalks performed by a Canadian in a single mission. He spent 17 hours and 47 minutes outside the shuttle, a Canadian record.
After retiring from the space program in 2008, Dr. Williams returned to healthcare. He is currently President and CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario. Recipient of 4 honorary degrees, the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, he is passionate about sharing his experiences through his speaking activities and is very excited about inspiring the next generation to pursue their dreams.
Married, with two children, Dr. Williams enjoys flying, scuba diving, hiking, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, and downhill and cross-country skiing.