Dr. Richard C. Nelson: The Penn State Biomechanics Laboratory and Its Impact on My Career

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics

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James S. Walton4DVideo

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In 1967, as an undergraduate gymnast, I developed an interest in the mechanics of twisting somersaults. In 1969, after expressing a desire to measure and model human motion in a doctoral program, I was advised that Dr Richard “Dick” Nelson was starting a unique program in biomechanics of sport at Penn State University. In September 1970, I was the fourth or fifth doctoral student to join the new program. In 1972, I photographed a cluster of 18 golf balls hung from a 4′ × 8′ sheet of plywood in Dick’s new biomechanics laboratory. The question: “Could I create a 3-dimensional scale that would allow me to locate these golf balls in 3 dimensions?” From these early beginnings, I went on to develop the mathematical foundation for “motion capture” and a career as an entrepreneur and scientist working in a very wide variety of industrial environments in the United States and abroad. Much of my success can be traced back to the 4 years I spent on the Penn State campus. Dick’s efforts in the late 60s and his persistence in the early 70s, and later, were instrumental in creating a new discipline: “Biomechanics of Sport.” Dick: Thank you.

Walton (jim@4dvideo.com) is with 4DVideo, Sebastopol, CA, USA.

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  • 1.

    Walton JS. A high speed timing unit for cinematography. Research Quarterly. 1970;41(2):213216.

  • 2.

    Walton JS. Photographic and Computational Techniques for Three-Dimensional Location of Trampolinists. [Master’s thesis]. Michigan State University; 1970.

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  • 3.

    Anon. Cats teach astronauts to maneuver in mid-air. Life. 1968;65(7):77.

  • 4.

    Kane TR, Scher MP. A dynamical explanation of the falling cat phenomenon. Int J Solid Struct. 1969;5:663670.

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    Walton JS. Computer assisted scoring comes to gymnastics. Gymnast. 1974;16(4):38.

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    Bernitt DL, Walton JS, Bader FS. Large scale gymnastics championships: an on-line, interactive collection and analysis of scores. Proceedings of the seventh international conference on APL; 1975. Pisa, Italy.

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  • 7

    Walton JS. Cinematography as a tool in biomechanics of sport. Proceedings of the 117th Technical Meeting of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE); 1975. Los Angeles, California.

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  • 8.

    Walton, JS. Close-range cine-photogrammetry: Another approach to motion analysis. Proceedings of the International Conference on Sport Science: International Clinic on High-Speed Biomechanics Cinematography; 1978. Edmonton, Alberta.

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  • 9.

    Walton JS, Kane TR. Interactive computer graphics—a new coaching aid. Proceedings of the 6th International Seminar on Biomechanics: “Biomechanics VI”. 1977;439444, Copenhagen, Denmark.

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  • 10.

    Walton JS. Close-Range Cine-Photogrammetry: A Generalized Technique for Quantifying Gross Human Motion. [Doctoral dissertation]. Pennsylvania State University; 1981.

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  • 11.

    Vasilopoulos A. Atlanta gets the gold: Multimedia presentation helps Atlanta win bid as host city to 1996 summer Olympic Games. Comput Graph World. 1990;13(12):8384, 86, 89, 91.

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  • 12.

    Allman WF. Pitching rainbows. Science 82. 1982;10:3239.

  • 13.

    Walton JS, Watts R. Gravity’s rainbows: The kinematics of baseballs and bodies. Proceedings of the 149th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); 1983. Detroit, Michigan.

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  • 14.

    Carey J, Bruno M. Physics in the Batter’s Box. Newsweek. 1983; September 10, p. 76.

  • 15.

    Walton JS, ed. Proceedings of First World Congress of Biomechanics: Mini-Symposium on Image-Based Motion Measurement; 1990. SPIE Volume 1356, La Jolla, California.

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    Davidhazy A, Etoh T, Johnson CB, Snyder DR, Walton JS, eds. Proceedings of 42nd Annual Meeting of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE): Conference on Ultra- and High-Speed Photography and Image-Based Motion Measurement; 1997. SPIE Volume 3173, San Diego, California.

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    Walton JS, ed. Proceedings of Electronic Imaging '99: Conference on High-Speed Imaging and Sequence Analysis; 1999. SPIE Volume 3642, San Jose, California.

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    Frank AM, Walton JS, eds. Proceedings of Electronic Imaging 2000: Conference on High-Speed Imaging and Sequence Analysis II; 2000. SPIE Volume 3968, San Jose, California.

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    Frank AM, Walton JS, eds. Proceedings of Electronic Imaging 2001: Conference on High-Speed Imaging and Sequence Analysis III; 2001. SPIE Volume 4308, San Jose, California.

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    El-Hakim SF, Gruen A, Walton JS. eds. Proceedings of Electronic Imaging 2003: Videometrics VII; 2003. SPIE Volume 5013, Santa Clara, California.

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    Beraldin JA, El-Hakim SF, Gruen A, Walton JS, eds. Proceedings of Electronic Imaging 2005: Videometrics VIII; 2005. SPIE Volume 5665, Santa Clara, California.

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    Johnson H. The mechanical engineer and the transition to image analysis. Adv Imaging. 1990;5(11):5256.

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    Walton JS. Image-based motion measurement: New technology, new applications. Proceedings of the 21st International Congress on High-Speed Photography and Photonics (ICHSPP '94); 1994. SPIE Volume 2513: 962880, Taejon, Korea.

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  • 24.

    Walton JS. The camera as a transducer. Maint Technol. 1997;10(9):2429.

  • 25.

    Walton JS. Cameras as displacement transducers—another approach to motion measurement in three-dimensions. Test Eng Manag.2008;70(2): 1013.

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