Gordon T. Danby, who helped invent magnetic levitation trains, dies at 86



But despite the couple’s considerable efforts on promotion – speaking at conferences, testifying at hearings, and collaborating on books with titles like “The fight for Maglev” – the concept never made much noise.

Initial federal funding to develop the technology has dried up, and although the idea sometimes resurfaces in the United States, there is talk of trying to bring the technology to the Northeast railway corridor – superconducting maglev trains have only been built in Japan, as demonstration tracks. There are also a few maglev trains that use conventional electromagnets, including one in Shanghai.

Gordon Thompson Danby was born on November 8, 1929 in Richmond, Ontario, near Ottawa. After developing rickets as a child, he was sent to live with his grandparents on their farm in rural Ontario.

He became a skilled hockey player and played the sport semi-professionally. He studied mathematics and physics at Carleton University in Ottawa and obtained a doctorate in nuclear physics in 1956 from McGill University in Montreal.

Dr Danby was hired at Brookhaven the following year and worked there until 1999. While in the lab he devised a way to make particle accelerators more powerful by using separate magnets to bend and bend the particle beam, rather than combining the functions into a single magnet.

He then worked as a consultant for the Fonar Corporation in Melville, NY, designing superconducting electromagnets for the company’s magnetic resonance imaging machines, including those that allow a patient to stand during the procedure.

Besides his daughter, Dr Danby is survived by his wife, Jane, and one son, Judd.

In the 1990s, frustrated by the lackluster response of federal agencies to their maglev work, Dr Danby and Dr Powell proposed a privately funded 20 mile line to Florida. It didn’t go very far. But they never stopped believing in and promoting technology.

Dr Danby even took a trip to Japan to see their maglev train in action. “It was very nice,” he told The New York Times. “It happened with a whoosh.”


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