When Ken Money was a preparing to represent Canada as a high jumper at the 1956 Olympic Games he adopted an unorthodox strategy. Instead of training in lightweight athletic gear he would spend his practice time walking around and jumping while fully dressed with weights sewn into his clothes.
”Everyone teased him about it, but he jumped higher than he ever had when he got to the Olympics,” his daughter, Laura Money, said.
Dr. Money died on March 6 at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in Toronto where he had been a long-term care resident. He was 88.
An accomplished athlete, aviator and scientist, Dr. Money placed fifth in his event at the summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, with a jump of 2.03 metres (6 feet, 7¾ inches). He was well accustomed to reaching for new heights in other ways and is best known as one of the Canada’s original group of six astronauts, selected in 1983, though he never got the chance to fly in space.
A physiologist by training, Dr. Money spent much of his scientific career working for the Department of National Defence at its renowned research laboratory in Downsview, Ont., now called the Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine (DCIEM).
He was a world-leading expert in the vestibular system – the mechanism located in the inner ear that allows the body to keep its sense of balance while in motion and that can cause disorientation for pilots and astronauts.
His pioneering research on the subject produced more than 100 published papers and frequently involved partnering with NASA and the European Space Agency. Among his most significant works was a highly cited review of the science of motion sickness, published in 1970, and a research paper published in the journal Nature in 1974 that explains the phenomenon of positional alcohol nystagmus – an involuntary movement of the eyeballs that can occur after a large dose of alcohol. Dr. Money also developed a surgical procedure, known as semicircular canal plugging, that can be used to treat a particular form of dizziness.
Dr. Money exemplified the virtues of being a good scientist, including “to be focused and open minded,” said Robert Cheung, who was once a student of Dr. Money’s at the University of Toronto and then worked with him as a research assistant and later a long-time colleague and collaborator.
Dr. Cheung said that while Dr. Money had an inexhaustible curiosity and excitement about his specialty, it was tempered with his experience and understanding as an RCAF-trained pilot and a member of the No. 400 Squadron air reserve which told him that laboratory experiments were not always an indication of what might occur in real flight situations.
The combination of scientific and practical know-how would make Dr. Money a highly qualified member of Canada’s first astronaut cohort for nearly 10 years, during which he worked on life science experiments destined to fly on the space shuttle and served as the backup for Roberta Bondar’s historic flight in 1992.
In preparation for the mission, he and Dr. Bondar endured rigorous water survival training that had been instituted by NASA in the wake of the 1986 Challenger disaster. The training included dropping from a hang glider by parachute into the ocean and then inflating a small raft with a breathing tube.
After one such training exercise conducted out of the Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, Dr. Bondar said that Dr. Money felt that their Department of National Defence-issued beige flight suits should be washed right away to get the salt out in order to be made presentable.
“Ken was insistent that we go to the laundromat with them,” Dr. Bondar said. Unfortunately, Dr. Money then managed to shrink both the suits. “They were like flood pants, up about two inches above his ankles,” she recalled with a laugh.
His logical approach to things sometimes led to amusing results, Dr. Bondar said. As the oldest member of Canada’s astronaut corps, Dr. Money was known for coming to work in a business suit and tie. When at one point she suggested that he change his tie for some variety he replied that he changed it frequently, but that he had purchased a number of ties in the same pattern.
A born competitor, Dr. Money was a team player when it counted most, Dr. Bondar said, recalling how he was the one who was cracking jokes during the astronauts’ first group photo to keep them all smiling.
But it was when she was chosen ahead of him to fly on the space shuttle during a life science mission that Dr. Money really showed his character, Dr. Bondar added. Despite his disappointment, “he wanted to prove that our flight was successful. … Although he wasn’t up in space, he was as good as.”
Not only did Dr. Money serve as her main communications support on the ground, she said, but in the months leading up to the flight Dr. Money regularly visited Dr. Bondar in Toronto when she was living on her own after recovering from a training injury. He brought her groceries and kept her steps clear of ice, assuring her that she would soon be on her feet again.
“It was just nice to know that someone had my back, even though he could have easily made it his business to undermine my position because of the injury,” she said.
Dr. Money left the Canadian Space Agency in 1992 after Dr. Bondar’s flight and resumed his research work at DCIEM. He retired there as a senior scientist in 1994.
Dr. Money’s contributions to science and the space program earned him many honours, including the Meritorious Service Cross from the Governor-General in 1994 and the Kent Gillingham Award from the U.S.-based Aerospace Medical Society in 2000. He was also a recipient of the Wilber R. Franks Award from the Canadian Society of Aviation Medicine.
Born in Toronto on Jan. 5, 1935, Kenneth Eric Money spent his early years living with his brother and mother, who was divorced, an unusual circumstance for the time. During his childhood his maternal grandfather, William Bate, was a both a role model and a supporting presence.
“He had the talent for making a child think that there was nothing more important than the child’s latest question or project,” Ms. Money said. “That was my dad’s granddad and that was also my dad.”
Young Ken attended Whitney Public School in Toronto. After his mother remarried the family moved to Noranda, Que., where his stepfather worked in the mining industry.
He returned to his hometown to attend the University of Toronto where he competed as a swimmer and high jumper and qualified for the Olympics. While he was at UofT he did his air force pilot training and joined the reserve. He was later inducted into the Canadian Forces Athletic Hall of Fame. He earned his PhD in physiology in 1961.
By then he had met and married Sheila Donnelly, a professor of nursing and his wife of nearly 65 years. Their only child was born in 1964.
While pursuing family life, his scientific research and keeping up his flight credentials, Dr. Money also found time for a range of pursuits. This included becoming a competitive badminton player at both the national and international level. Though left-handed, he learned to play with both hands so that he would need to move less over the court and could gradually tire out his opponents.
It was the same approach he applied throughout his life, Ms. Money said. “He would come up with great strategies and then he would just execute on them sort of relentlessly.”
Dr. Money’s competitive streak extended to bridge, which he began playing during his days with the 400 Squadron and maintained until a few years ago.
“He was a great guy to play with” said James Peirce, a retired Air Canada pilot and squadron member. Mr. Peirce said he wound up as Dr. Money’s bridge partner six decades ago because he wouldn’t play for money while “Ken would play for double stakes.”
He added that Dr. Money often had stories to share about his research and the space program, including fascinating excursions into animal physiology and the operation of space toilets among other subjects.
But throughout his years as noted scientist, astronaut and public figure, “Ken never changed,” Mr. Peirce said. “He was just the same down to earth guy.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Dr. Money leaves his three grandchildren, whom he adored spending time with in his retirement. He was predeceased by his brother, Bill Money, and sister, Mary Elliot.