LaMarcus Adna Thompson (March 8, 1848 – May 8, 1919) was an American inventor and businessman most famous for developing a variety of gravity rides.
Thompson was born in Jersey, Licking County, Ohio on March 8, 1848. In his adolescence he became a skilled carpenter. In 1873 he began operating a grocery store in Elkhart, Indiana. There he began designing a device to manufacture seamless hosiery. He made a fortune in that business, but failing health forced him to quit it.
Thompson is best known for his early work developing roller coasters, and is sometimes called the “Father of the Gravity Ride”. He did not invent the roller coaster. The history of the roller coaster dates back to at least the 17th century, and John G. Taylor obtained an earlier patent under the name “Inclined Railway”; however, over his lifetime, Thompson accumulated nearly thirty patents related to roller coaster technologies. An example is the patent granted December 22, 1885 for the Gravity Switch-back Railway.
Thompson’s Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway opened at Coney Island in 1884. A (6 mph) ride cost 5 cents. Eventually he built many more, both in the U.S. and in Europe. In 1887, along with designer James A. Griffiths, he opened the Scenic Railway on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J.
He was managing director of the L. A. Thompson Scenic Railway Company, 220 West 42nd St., incorporated in 1895. He died at his home, Thompson Park, Glen Cove, Long Island, on May 8, 1919 aged 71.