Peter A. Brigham, 76, of Wynnewood, a national leader in the field of burn injury care and prevention, died of prostate cancer Wednesday, June 22, at Wesley Enhanced Living Main Line in Media.
Mr. Brigham was the founding director of the Philadelphia-based Burn Foundation, which supports burn care centers at area hospitals. He was president of the organization for a quarter-century, from 1979 to 2004, while simultaneously making strides in national burn data collection.
He was considered a groundbreaker for his work with the American Burn Association (ABA), studying and promoting burn prevention and epidemiology beginning in the 1970s, when the field was growing rapidly. He was acclaimed for his contributions to the prevention of fires related to cigarettes, mattresses, and children's pajamas.
"His driving force was to improve the care of people, to prevent these kinds of injuries," said Alan Dimick, a former ABA president who authored 10 papers with Mr. Brigham. The pair studied the evolution of burn center data from the 1970s to the present.
Born in Massachusetts, Mr. Brigham graduated in 1961 from Yale University, after which he served in Nigeria with the Peace Corps. He received a master's degree in social work at the University of Michigan, and in 1966 settled in Philadelphia. He soon joined Crozer-Chester Medical Center and the Burn Foundation.
He created "a firm foundation" for regional burn prevention, working not only with hospitals but with employers whose workers were exposed to burn risk, including oil companies, said John McCann, administrator of the Burn Foundation.
Mr. Brigham received two ABA awards during his career and was an early organizer and chairman of the Federation of Burn Foundations. In 1975, he compiled the first directory of North American burn care facilities.
"Peter was unmatched in his zeal for helping all of us understand the true burden of burns in our communities," said an ABA email to be sent to members this week.
Mr. Brigham was a local philanthropist, a book lover, and an advocate in the 2000s for the Cynwyd Heritage Trail. A descendant of Protestant missionaries, he regularly vacationed at his ancestors' homestead in Islesboro, Maine.
"He would cut the neighbor's grass just because it needed to be done," said his stepson Eric Jennings. "That's the kind of guy he was, not only serving his neighbors but also serving the larger community."
After retiring in 2004, Mr. Brigham continued to be involved in burn-related work, particularly statistics, until his death.
"He always wanted to figure things out in his head with numbers," Jennings said.
Besides his stepson, Mr. Brigham is survived by his ex-wife, Judith Trustone; stepsons Stephen, Douglas, and Brian Jennings; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 16, at Old First Reformed United Church of Christ, 151 N. Fourth St., Philadelphia 19106. A private committal service will be held at the family grave site in Maine.
Contributions may be made to the church's programs for the homeless at the address above, or to Bethesda Project, 1630 South St., Philadelphia 19146.