William A. Eaton joined the National Institutes of Health in 1968 as a medical officer in public health care, and since 1986 he has headed the chemical and physical laboratory there. Eaton is internationally known for his pioneering research on the physics and chemistry of proteins. His fundamental research on sickle-cell disease is an example of the prominent role that biophysical research plays in understanding human diseases. Using laser pulses, Eaton has significantly advanced the research on protein folding. He is the scientific director of the Intramural AIDS Targeted Anti-viral Program (IATAP), in which a group of leading biophysicists works together to further investigate HIV/AIDS.
William Eaton has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Max Delbruck Prize in Biological Physics from the American Physical Society in 2011, the Hans Neurath Award from the Protein Society (2009), and the Founders Award from the Biophysical Society (2006). In addition, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.
The ties between Freie Universität Berlin and William Eaton go back to 1959 and 1960, when he was the first so-called Willy Brandt Exchange Student between the University of Pennsylvania and Freie Universität.