Dr. G. Donald Whedon '36, P'70, Sc.D. '67

Former director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


From 1962 to 1981, Dr. Whedon directed the branch of the National Institutes of Health known today as the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Whedon's 19-year tenure made him one of the longest serving institute directors in NIH history.

After earning his B.A. cum laude in pre-medical science at HWS, Whedon graduated from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and began working at Cornell University Medical College, where he became a widely respected expert in calcium metabolism. 

In 1952, he left Cornell to join the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases as chief of the Metabolic Diseases Branch of institute's intramural program. As a researcher, he contributed to the knowledge that loss of calcium was responsible for osteoporosis. In 1956, he was appointed assistant director of NIAMD and became director in 1962.

In the early 1970s, Whedon headed a research group that advised NASA on potential metabolic effects on humans during space travel. He and his colleagues conducted the first studies to evaluate the effects of weightlessness and confinement on Gemini VII astronauts before any other country examined these issues. In a series of Skylab studies, Whedon, as principal investigator, demonstrated the extensive losses of skeletal calcium due to continual exposure to weightlessness.

NASA awarded Whedon its Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award in 1974 and an Award of Merit in 1996. He was honored in 1978 with an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) by the University of Rochester.

Whedon contributed more than 80 publications, primarily in the field of calcium metabolism, which have aided significantly in the management of the bone disease osteoporosis. 

At Hobart, he was the editor of The Herald and The Echo. He was elected to several honor societies, including Druid, the highest honor accorded to a Hobart man. Along with Dr. Irving A. McGrew, he established Hobart's first intercollegiate golf team. In 1998, Whedon was honored with the Hobart Medal of Excellence.