William (Bill) G. Fastie was born on December 6, 1916 in Baltimore, Maryland. He grew up in West Baltimore, attended Catonsville High School, and graduated in 1933. While working in a grocery store during the Great Depression, Fastie was offered the opportunity to attend free college-level evening classes, where he discovered his interest in physics. Fastie entered the Johns Hopkins University as an undergraduate, but never earned his bachelor's degree. Instead, he was offered a scholarship to study graduate physics at Hopkins. Knowing that the lack of a bachelor's degree would prevent him from receiving a PhD, Fastie began the graduate program in physics in 1937. After working in the program for four years, he was offered a position as a research assistant.
William Fastie worked as a research assistant in the JHU Physics department from 1941- 1945. In 1945 he left to accept a position as Research Physicist with Leeds and Northrup Company. By 1948, Fastie had been promoted to Head of the Physics Research Branch of Leeds and Northrup. It was while he was working for Leeds and Northrup that Fastie made the discovery that a spectrometer was improved with two mirrors instead of one. He later discovered that this spectrometer had been invented previously by Hermann Ebert. The improved device was eventually named the Fastie-Ebert Spectrometer.
Fastie stayed in his position with Leeds and Northrup for three more years, but returned to the Hopkins Physics Department in 1951 as Research Contract Director and Research Scientist. In 1968, Fastie was hired as Adjunct Research professor of Physics. He remained in that position until his retirement in 1996. During his time with Hopkins, Fastie began his Rocket-based studies, and eventually worked on the Hubble Space Telescope.
In 1990, William Fastie was awarded an honorary PhD by the University of Colorado. In 1997, a year after his retirement, Fastie was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He died at the age of 83 in July, 2000.