William Thomas Northey Jr.

William Thomas Northey Jr. passed away Dec. 27, 2012. He was born Aug. 19, 1928, in Duluth, Minn. He was the third child, and only son, born to Mary Ellen Riley Northey and William Thomas Northey. He lived his early years in Meadowlands, Minn., a small farming community.


Graduating from Meadowlands High, William yearned to join the U.S. Navy, but missed the war by just over a year. Instead, he joined the Naval Reserves and entered the University of Minnesota, Duluth branch. He graduated with a B.S. degree in June 1950.


In August that same year, he married Betty Van Laeke, moved to Waukegan, Ill., and worked as a civilian employee at Great Lakes Naval Station from 1950 to 1954.


In January 1955, William entered the graduate program at the University of Kansas and earned his Ph.D. in 1959. This was followed immediately by a professorship at Arizona State University, where he taught for the next 25 years.


In addition to teaching microbiology and immunology, Dr. Northey enhanced the university Science Department by obtaining numerous grants for research projects and fellowships, as well as for acquiring the university’s first electron microscope. Also notable during his university tenure was his development of Coccidioidin, the first diagnostic skin test for the condition known as Valley Fever, a soil fungus that attacks the lungs of as many as 100,000 people each year.


During this same period, Dr. Northey developed and perfected scorpion anti-venom. Then, in his spare time, he produced the serum and distributed it to local hospitals at no charge, a philanthropic endeavor that saved dozens of lives.


In 1972, he married his second wife, Margaret Esparza.


As founder of Bioproducts Research Laboratories (later latric Corp.), Dr. Northey and his team of researchers developed a replacement for the “scratch test,” at that time the only method of determining a patient’s allergy sensitivities. The original scratch test required multiple injections of a wide range of allergens, followed by an evaluation of the patient’s physical reactions, usually swelling and itching. The new method required a simple blood draw.


After retirement from university life, Dr. Northey continued his work in the field of microbiology by acting as a consultant for various corporations and laboratories. As an advisor and mentor, Dr. Northey will be remembered for his extraordinary intelligence, generosity, optimism and good humor.


An irrepressible businessman as well as scientist, Dr. Northey also thrived in the arena of commercial real estate development. A man of varied interests, Dr. Northey was as happy reading thousand page novels as he was skiing the slopes of Colorado or hiking Piestewa Peak. He had a lifelong fondness for German sports cars and grinned whenever he spoke of his days at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. His love of travel took him to many exotic locations.   


He was preceded in death by his parents and sisters, Mary Ellen Ralidak and Millicent Ralidak. He is survived by his six children, William II, Bruce, Brian, Barry, Brett and Suzanne from his marriage to Betty; his wife, Margaret Esparza Northey; and their daughter, Kathleen; six grandchildren; and two great grandchildren. Dr. Northey will be honored at a private family memorial.

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