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Renowned earthquake engineer's passing a great loss

19 August 2011

Renowned earthquake engineer's passing a great loss to science community

IRL Chief Executive Shaun Coffey today acknowledged the contribution of world-renowned earthquake engineer and inventor of the base isolation technique Dr Bill Robinson QSO, FRSNZ, who passed away this week.

The seismic protection and damping equipment developed by Dr Robinson is used in buildings located in some of the world’s most seismically active areas such as California and Japan. In New Zealand it protects several high-profile buildings including the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa.

“Bill Robinson’s work has saved innumerable lives," Shaun Coffey says. "The technology he invented and developed has been deployed in what is estimated to be worth over US$100 billion worth of buildings and structures throughout the world.”

The rubber-lead bearings he invented while employed at IRL's predecessor organisation, the DSIR, have been tested by some of the world’s strongest magnitude earthquakes over the last few decades including the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake and 1995 Kobe Earthquake in Japan.

Perhaps the most notable success of the rubber-lead bearing system was during the 1994 Los Angeles Earthquake when it protected the University of Southern California Teaching Hospital while several other hospitals in the vicinity were evacuated due to the level of damage they sustained.

“Bill Robinson was a total inspiration in his approach to research and the application of science and engineering. Many current and former IRL staff have fond memories of working with him, and he has been described as passionate, humorous and loyal by those who knew him well,” Shaun Coffey says.

Dr Robinson was a former Director of the DSIR’s Physics and Engineering Lab and the subsequent Physical Sciences division of DSIR. He was awarded the Cooper Medal in 1994 and New Zealand’s top science and technology honour, the Rutherford Medal, in 1998. He was also very active in Antarctic Research for many years.

In 1995 he founded Lower Hutt-based Robinson Seismic Ltd, which is recognised around the globe as a leading innovator in seismic protection and damping devices.


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