Loss of pioneer of quake protection technology

17:00, Aug 18 2011
PIONEER: Dr Bill Robinson demonstrates the workings of the earthquake protection technology he developed.
PIONEER: Dr Bill Robinson demonstrates the workings of the earthquake protection technology he developed.

The pioneer of earthquake protection technology that could play a large part in the future of Christchurch has died.

Dr Bill Robinson, who was suffering from cancer, died in Christchurch early on Wednesday, aged 73.

In the 1970s Robinson developed lead rubber bearing technnology which can be incorporated into a building's foundation to dampen the force of earthquake movement.

Dr Robinson's son Michael, who lives in Christchurch, said his father was a great family man and a lot of fun.

"He was very adventurous and travelled the world giving lectures about his work," he said.

Robinson joined the Physics and Engineering Laboratory (PEL) of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in 1967 with a PhD in Physical Metallurgy from the University of Illinois.

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During his time at PEL he developed experimental techniques using ultrasonics in solid state physics, initiated a research programme in the Antarctic on sea ice and invented devices to reduce the damage to structures during earthquakes.

In 1985 he was appointed director of PEL and in 1995 he founded Penguin Engineering Ltd (later changed to Robinson Seismic) to commercialise his inventions.

He was awarded many honours, including the Rutherford Medal for Technology, the Michaelus Medal, an honorary DSc, a Fellowship of the NZ Royal Society and the NZ Royal Society's Gold Medal for Technology. In 2007 he was appointed Companion of the Queen's Service Order for services to engineering.

His family will hold a private family funeral today.

Robinson is survived by his wife Barbara, sons Eric and Michael and daughter Sian.

The Press