Kevin Granata, PhD (December 29, 1961–April 16, 2007) [Obituary]


Kevin Granata, PhD (December 29, 1961–April 16, 2007) [Obituary]


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<b>Kevin Granata, PhD (December 29, 1961-April 16, 2007)

Marras, William S. PhD; Stokes, Ian A. F. PhD; Abel, Mark F. MD

Address correspondence to William S. Marras, PhD, E-mail:; Ian A. F. Stokes, PhD, E-mail:; and/or Mark F. Abel, MD, E-mail:

Kevin Granata, PhD, died tragically at the age of 45 on April 16, 2007 on the campus of Virginia Tech where he had worked since 2003. He had started the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics lab at Virginia Tech and held the rank of Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics. Dr. Granata was a prolific and innovative contributor to the field of spinal biomechanics.

Dr. Granata earned a PhD in biomechanics in the Biodynamics Laboratory at Ohio State University in 1993, where he used both analytical models and experiments with human subjects to determine the magnitude of muscle forces around the lumbar spine in the work place. His early contributions in this area dealt with integrating electromyographic (EMG) data into analytical models, reflex responses to loads, and the relationship to trunk stability. He also expanded understanding of how brain injury in children with cerebral palsy interferes with balance and movement, using his training in dynamics and control theory.

Dr. Granata was one of the most gifted engineers in the field of biomechanics. His scientific achievements are documented in 66 peer-reviewed articles published in a broad range of scientific journals, including <i>Spine</i>. His extraordinary productivity in his tragically shortened career was directed especially at two areas of control theory applied to neuromuscular control of movement—movement impairments in people with cerebral palsy and dynamic aspects of trunk stability. He introduced new and challenging concepts, questioning the accepted paradigms. He pioneered the idea of reflex dynamics in trunk stability, representing the trunk as a multi-joint system stabilized by muscles having activation dependent stiffness and reflex delays with variable gain. This was tested in critical experiments involving pseudo-random perturbations of human subjects, with the data subjected to nonlinear systems-identification analyses. His most recent paper establishes the necessity for having reflex muscle responses in the control of spinal stability. He was extraordinarily talented in his thinking, in attracting the best students, and tenacious in obtaining funding and pursuing rigorous peer-reviewed publications for his work. Visiting his lab was exhilarating.

In all areas of his research, he combined innovative theoretical models and tested them in cunningly designed experiments using human subjects. He undertook ambitious clinical gait studies, including pre- and postoperative comparisons, to identify interactions between gait patterns and recruitment of multi-joint limb muscles. These theories are now making their way into clinical practice.

Dr. Granata was extremely logical and had a keen intellect. He was a big picture thinker and possessed a "moral intellect;" he always tried to do the right thing. He was a gifted lecturer and teacher, and a great mentor to his students whom he respected, and from whom he commanded respect. While he delved into complex concepts to spinal stability, he was able to make these concepts understandable to everyone; he loved to use simple models to clarify complex theoretical ideas. Like most successful people, Kevin Granata was determined, tough, disciplined, and highly educated. His Ohio upbringing included farm work, carpentry, athletics, and of course academics. Kevin was clearly a whole person; he was a consummate educator, a man of action, and a compassionate family man. His immediate family that survives him includes his wife, Linda, and three beautiful, bright children to whom he was devoted.

It is estimated that Kevin Granata&#39;s memorial service was attended by nearly 1000 people; he touched the lives of so many. He will be sorely missed by numerous colleagues around the country, around the world, and by the generations of students whom he has mentored.


Archived with permission of publisher.

Original Source: Spine, Volume 32(16), 15 July 2007, p 1699
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William S. Marras, Ian A. F. Stokes, and Mark F. Abel




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William S. Marras, Ian A. F. Stokes, and Mark F. Abel, “Kevin Granata, PhD (December 29, 1961–April 16, 2007) [Obituary],” The April 16 Archive, accessed July 18, 2024,