Biomedical Engineer Made Rides Safer- LA Times - 7/3/05
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In his Cleveland basement, the biomedical engineer with the thrill-ride fascination went to work. A new roller coaster had opened in Ohio in 1972, but it contained a design flaw that caused several teenage girls to suffer broken collarbones.
He built a precise model of the coaster and borrowed technology commonly used in the aerospace industry to pinpoint the trouble: a spot where the track was too steep, which made the cars over-accelerate and slam around riders who were more slightly built.
The ride was the Jumbo Jet at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, and in solving the mystery of the broken bones, Richard H. Brown helped invent an industry — the biomechanical testing of theme park rides.
Brown, 64, died June 23 after falling on the driveway of his Huntington Beach home and severely injuring his head, said Erika Obert, his daughter.
"He was the most prominent of just a handful of people who worked in this field," Paul Ruben, North American editor of Park World magazine, said Thursday. "He made sure that the new rides being introduced were not only thrilling but also safe and comfortable."
Doc Brown, as his colleagues called him, had a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University, a love of roller coasters he traced to his teen years riding the Coney Island Cyclone, and a hand in the design of more than 100 amusement park rides, including attractions at the Disney parks, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios and Knott's Berry Farm.
He also became a pioneer in medicine in 1977 when he developed new ways to monitor the central nervous system of patients before and after surgery, said Jeffrey Balzer, an associate professor of neurological surgery and neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"Frankly, he created an entire field of medicine," Balzer said.
In 1999, Brown moved to Huntington Beach to be closer to Disneyland and Knott's, two of his main clients. Most recently, he consulted on the Tower of Terror, which opened last year at Disney's California Adventure.
Brown enjoyed the outdoors, especially boating, fishing and golf. He also piloted private planes and had done aerial acrobatics. "He just liked to fly," said his daughter.
That was true whether he was zipping around a webbed steel track or high in the sky.