Dr. Richard C. Nelson—Mentor and Visionary: Lessons Learned, Memories Forever

Robert J. Gregor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Richard C. Nelson started the Biomechanics Laboratory, one of the first of its kind in the world, on the campus of the Pennsylvania State University in 1967. His vision focused on connecting the physiological and mechanical elements of human performance analysis, specifically sport performance. The lab’s engaging, interdisciplinary environment supported self-designed programs of study, benefiting each individual student. Furthermore, the Biomechanics Lab became the nexus for the development of biomechanics as a field of study internationally. Richard Nelson’s diplomatic skills spread the word initially through the formation of the International Society of Biomechanics. This international effort resulted in the development of national societies of biomechanics around the world, for example, the American Society of Biomechanics. Second, these efforts stimulated the concept of sport performance analysis on the international stage. Richard Nelson’s passion was to analyze individual performances at the Olympic Games. This goal was finally realized, with the development of the Subcommission within the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission and biomechanical analysis projects completed at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Richard Nelson’s vision, mentoring style, and dedication planted and nurtured the seed of biomechanics as a discipline of study around the world.