Engineer will be remembered for the toys he invented: Barbie, Hot Wheels cars

August 19, 1991|By Myrna Oliver | Myrna Oliver,Los Angeles Times

Jack Ryan, who invented missiles for Raytheon and held patents on blockbuster toys including the Barbie doll, has died. Private funeral services and burial will be held today.

Ryan, 65, died Aug. 13 at home following two years of severe debilitation caused by a massive stroke he suffered in 1989, a family spokesman said yesterday. Prior to his stroke, he had suffered a heart attack and undergone quintuple bypass surgery.

Ryan, who held more than 1,000 patents on inventions around the world, designed the Sparrow and Hawk missiles when he worked for Raytheon. But it was his toy inventions that put his engineering genius into households across the United States.

He served for a time as vice president of research and design for Mattel Inc., and worked several years as a self-employed consultant and inventor for the toy company.

Ryan designed some 35 of the country's best-selling toys, including the Chatty Cathy talking doll, Hot Wheels and many electronic toys.

But his best known product was Barbie, the tall, slender, young adult doll that could be purchased with a never-ending wardrobe, boyfriend Ken, and cars, playhouses and career paraphernalia.

Never mind that critics said that the doll -- with its torpedo breasts, tiny waist and disproportionately long legs -- gave little girls a false and unachievable ideal of the female adult figure. Just about every girl wanted one anyway, complete with clothes and accessories.

Ryan applied part of the wealth he acquired from his inventions to a Tudor mansion in 1962 in the upscale Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles and turned it into a major Southern California party site. He and his then wife, Barbara, opened the grounds and public rooms of the vast mansion for charity fund-raisers, annually hosting more than 150 events with as many as 1,000 guests each.

Ryan also applied his engineering and inventive skills to the house, wiring its 60 telephones as an intercom able to handle mechanical tasks like turning on lights in fountains or along pathways.

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