Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


Prather, Victor, ca. 1923-1961


Lieutenant Commander Victor A. Prather, Jr. (ca. 1923-1961), A1944, M1952, was a member of the V-12 Program at Tufts and went on to Tufts Medical School. After two years of practice he was called back to the Navy and graduated from flight surgeon school. He spent one year at Miramar Naval Air Station, half of it on air carrier duty in the Pacific, and was then sent to Port Lyantey in Morocco for three years as flight surgeon for the VR24 squadron, which supported the Mediterranean sixth (supply) fleet. He then was attached to "Project RAM" at the Bethesda Naval Research Institute, the precursor of the Mercury program, whose objective it was to develop a space suit.

Victor Prather was a space hero before there was space flight. Before man walked in space and stepped on the moon, he saw the world from the edge of space, 113,740 feet high. He and his colleague, Commander Ross, rose to this height on May 4, 1961, seated in an open gondola suspended beneath a Strato-Lab balloon of the Office of Naval Research. (This gondola is now in the Naval Air Museum at the Pensacola Naval Station in Florida.) For nine hours their survival depended on their space suits whose actual operating capabilities they were to determine. They were exposed to minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit and air pressures below 0.1 pounds per square inch. The flight was highly successful, but Victor Prather lost his life, inexplicably slipping into the sea while being picked up by Navy helicopters. President Kennedy phoned and then received his widow and her children at the White House to present the Navy's Distinguished Flying Cross awarded to Prather for heroism and extraordinary achievement.

Lieutenant Commander Victor Prather and Commander Ross are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, adjacent to the tomb of the unknown soldier.

The Class of 1947 Victor Prather Scholarship was founded in his honor in 1972.

Source: 100H

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  • The encyclopedia seeks to capture more than 150 years of Tufts' achievements, societal contributions and outstanding alumni and faculty in concise entries. As a source of accurate factual information, the Encyclopedia can be used by anyone interested in the history of Tufts and of the people who have made it the unique institution it is.
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Numeric Entries
Dame, Lorin Low, 1838-1903
Dana, Charles A., 1881-1975
Dana Laboratory, 1963
Daniel Ounjian Prize in Economics,
Davies, Caroline Stodder, 1864-1939
Davies House, 1894
De Florez Prize in Human Engineering, 1964
de Pacheco, Kaye MacKinnon, ca. 1910-ca. 1985
Dean Hall, 1887-1963
Dean, Oliver, 1783-1871
Dearborn, Heman Allen, 1831-1897
Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, 1893
Department of Anesthesia, 1970
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
Department of Chemistry, 1882
Department of Community Health, 1930
Department of Dermatology, 1897
The Department of Economics, 1946
Department of Medicine, 1893
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Department of Neurology, 1893
Department of Neuroscience, 1983
Department of Neurosurgery, 1951
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1893
Department of Ophthamology, 1893
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1906
Department of Otolaryngology, 1895
Department of Pathology, 1893
Department of Pediatrics, 1930
Department of Pharmacology, 1915
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1854
Department of Physiology, 1893
Department of Psychiatry, 1928
Department of Radiation Oncology, 1968
Department of Radiology, 1915
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1955
Department of Surgery, 1893
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, 1973
Department of Urology, 1910
Dental Health Sciences Building, 1969
Dewick, Cora Alma (Polk), 1875-1977
Dewick/MacPhie Dining Hall, 1959
Dickson Professorship of English and American History, 1913
Dirlam, Arland A., 1905-1979
Dog Cart, 1900
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
Donald A. Cowdery Memorial Scholarship, 1946
Dr. Benjamin Andrews Professorship of Surgery, 1987
Dr. Philip E. A. Sheridan Prize, 1977
The Drug Bust, 1970
Dudley, Henry Watson, 1831-1906
Dugger, Edward Jr., 1919-75
Durkee, Frank W., 1861-1939
Durkee, Henrietta Noble Brown, 1871-1946
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