Christian J. Lambertsen

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Christian James Lambertsen
Dr Lambertsen Army1942.jpg
Dr. Lambertsen, U.S. Army in 1942
Born(1917-05-15)May 15, 1917
DiedFebruary 11, 2011(2011-02-11) (aged 93)
NationalityUnited States United States of America
Alma mater- Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey – B.S. (1939)
- University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – M.D. (1943)
Known forResearch in tolerance and toxicity of respiratory gasses and development of diving procedures and equipment.
Scientific career
FieldsAerospace medicine, Undersea medicine, Diving medicine, Hyperbaric medicine, Physiology, and Engineering.
InstitutionsInstitute for Environmental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Doctoral studentsM.L Gernhardt
Notes above from the Dr. Lambertsen's CV dated May 2008.

Christian James Lambertsen (May 15, 1917 – February 11, 2011) was an American environmental medicine and diving medicine specialist who was principally responsible for developing the United States Navy frogmen's rebreathers in the early 1940s for underwater warfare. Lambertsen designed a series of rebreathers in 1940 (patent filing date: 16 Dec 1940) and in 1944 (patent issue date: 2 May 1944)[1] and first called his invention breathing apparatus. Later, after the war, he called it Laru (acronym for Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit) and finally, in 1952, he changed his invention's name again to SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus).[2] Although diving regulator technology was invented by Émile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1943 and was unrelated to rebreathers, the current use of the word SCUBA is largely attributed to the Gagnan-Cousteau invention. The US Navy considers Lambertsen to be "the father of the Frogmen".[3][4]


Lambertsen was born in Westfield, New Jersey,[5] and raised in Scotch Plains, New Jersey,[6] where he graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in 1935; he was inducted into his high school's hall of fame in 2016.[7] He attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, graduating in 1939 with a bachelor of science degree.[5] He graduated from University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1943.

Lambertsen was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Northwestern University in 1977.

Army career[edit]

Major Lambertsen served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1944 to 1946. He invented the first Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) and demonstrated it to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (after already being rejected by the U.S. Navy) in a pool at a hotel in Washington, D.C.[8] OSS not only bought into the concept, they hired Major Lambertsen to lead the program and build-up the dive element of their maritime unit.[8] He was vital in establishing the first cadres of U.S. military operational combat swimmers during late World War II. The OSS was also the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the maritime element still exists inside their Special Activities Division.[9]

His responsibilities included training and developing methods of combining self-contained diving and swimmer delivery including the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit for the OSS "Operational Swimmer Group".[3][4] Following World War II, he trained U.S. forces in methods for submerged operations, including composite fleet submarine / operational swimmers activity.

Civilian career[edit]

From 1946 to 1953, Lambertsen served on the faculty of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, though he did spend a year as a Visiting Research Associate Professor from 1951 to 1952 for the Department of Physiology at University College London, England. Lambertsen spent the 1950s concentrating on national research needs in undersea medicine (see National Service Activities below). He again took an appointment as Professor of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1962. He was also named Professor of Medicine in 1972 and Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1976. Each of these appointments were held until 1987. In 1985, he became Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Lambertsen was the founder and director of The Environmental Biomedical Stress Data Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[10]

The University of Pennsylvania's annual Christian J. Lambertsen Honorary Lecture is named for him. On May 31, 2007, the guest speaker was Professor Marc Feldmann, head of Imperial College's Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology who is recognised for his discovery of anti-TNF treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Lambertsen was in attendance.

Contributions to environmental medicine[edit]

Predictive Studies Series[edit]

Dr. Lambertsen's "Predictive Studies Series", spanning from 1969 with TEKTITE I to 1997, researched many aspects of humans in extreme environments.[11]


University and national civilian awards and honors[edit]

Military service and related awards[edit]

  • 1945 Legion of Merit, U.S. Army
  • 1945 Major General William J. Donovan, U.S.A., Director, Office of Strategic Services
  • 1945 Lt. Colonel H. Q. A. Reeves, British Army
  • 1945 Lt. Commander Derek A. Lee, R.N.V.R., Burma
  • 1945 Colonel Sylvester C. Missal, M.C., U.S.A., Chief Surgeon, Office of Strategic Services
  • 1945 Commander H. G. A. Wooley, D.S.C., R.N., Director, Maritime Unit, Office of Strategic Services
  • 1946 Presidential Unit Citation, O.S.S. Unit 101, Burma, Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • 1946 U.S. Army Commendation Ribbon, Citation from Major General Norman Kirk, M.C., Surgeon General, U.S. Army
  • 1946 Admiral J. F. Farley, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard
  • 1946 Colonel H. W. Doan, M.C., Executive Officer, Surgeon General's Office, U.S. Army
  • 1947 Colonel George W. Read Jr., President, U.S. Army Ground Forces, Board No. 2
  • 1948 General Jacob L. Devers, U.S.A. Commanding General, U.S. Army Ground Forces
  • 1969 Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Secretary of the Navy
  • 1969 Military Oceanography Award, Secretary of the Navy
  • 1972 Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award
  • 1972 Secretary of the Navy Certificate of Commendation for Advisory Service, Committee on Undersea Warfare, National Academy of Sciences
  • 1976 Distinguished Public Service Award, United States Coast Guard
  • 1978 Certificate of Commendation for Outstanding Service on Secretary of the Navy Oceanographic Advisory Committee
  • 1995 British Embassy Citation
  • 1995 U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School Award: Lifetime Achievement
  • 1996 U.S. Special Forces Green Beret Award
  • 2001 U.S. Special Operations Command Medal
  • 2005 US Chief of Naval Operations Citation

National service activities[edit]

  • 1953–1960, 1962–1971 Committee on Naval Medical Research, National Research Council
  • 1953–1972 Committee on Undersea Warfare, National Research Council
  • 1953–1956 Chairman, Panel on Underwater Swimmers, Committee on Undersea Warfare, National Research Council
  • 1954–1960 Chairman, Panel on Shipboard and Submarine Medicine, Committee on Naval Medicine Research, National Research Council
  • 1954–1961 Advisory Panel on Medical Sciences, Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense, R and E
  • 1955–1959 Consultant, U.S. Army Chemical Corps
  • 1959–1961 Consultant, Scientific Advisory Board, U.S. Air Force
  • 1960–1962 Chairman, Committee on Man-in-Space, Space Science Board, National Academy of Sciences
  • 1960–1962 Member, Space Science Board, National Academy of Sciences
  • 1962–1980 Consultant, Space Science Board, National Academy of Sciences
  • 1967–1970 Member, President's Space Panel, PSAC
  • 1968–1977 Oceanographic Advisory Committee, Office of Secretary of the Navy
  • 1972 Consultant to the Diving Physiology and Technology Panel, U.S.-Japan Cooperative Program in Natural Resources, U.S. Department of the Interior
  • 1972–1977 Biomedical Sciences Advisor, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Dept. of Commerce
  • 1973–1977 Member, The Marine Board, National Academy of Engineering
  • 1973 Member, Smithsonian Advisory Board
  • 1983 Chairman, Environmental Sciences Review Committee, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • 1983–1986 National Undersea Research Center Advisory Board, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • 1983–1985 Space Medicine Advisory Panel, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • 1984–1986 Lunar Base Planning Group, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • 1989–1991 NASA Radiation and Environmental Health Working Group
  • 1991–1993 NASA Life Sciences Division Environmental Biomedical Sciences Working Group
  • 1992 NASA Life Sciences. Science and Technical Requirements Document for Space Station Freedom
  • 1993 NASA JSC Medical Advisory Board, Hubble Space Telescope Repair EVA
  • 1995 NASA JSC "In-Suit" Doppler Panel
  • 1998 Chairman, NASA Advisory Panel, Committee on ISS Decompression Risk Definition & Contingency Plan
  • 1998–1999 Chairman, NASA Life Sciences Decompression Research Peer Reviews


Refereed journals[edit]


  • 1944 US 2348074  "Breathing Apparatus." for Use Under Water
  • 1944 US 2362643  "Breathing Apparatus." for Use Under Water
  • 1947 US 2418473  "Hood for Oxygen Therapy."
  • 1948 US 2456130  "Breathing Apparatus." for Use Under Water
  • 1952 US 2586670  "Selective Gas Absorber." for Breathing Apparatus
  • 1957 US 2781043  "Oxygen Admission Valve." for Oxygen Rebreathing Apparatus
  • 1959 US 2871854  "Breathing Apparatus." for use Under Water
  • 1974 US 3794021  "Dual Mode Mixed Gas Breathing Apparatus."
  • 1974 US 3851487  "Buoyant Underwater Structures." for Underwater Work and Oil Trapping
  • 1989 US 4807706  "Breathable Fire Extinguishing Gas Mixtures."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lambertsen's patent in Google Patents
  2. ^ See Lambertsen's homage by the website
  3. ^ a b Vann RD (2004). "Lambertsen and O2: beginnings of operational physiology". Undersea Hyperb Med. 31 (1): 21–31. PMID 15233157. Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2008.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  4. ^ a b Butler FK (2004). "Closed-circuit oxygen diving in the U.S. Navy". Undersea Hyperb Med. 31 (1): 3–20. PMID 15233156. Archived from the original on May 13, 2010. Retrieved April 25, 2008.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ a b Hevesi, Dennis. "Christian Lambertsen, Inventor of Scuba Precursor, Dies at 93", The New York Times, February 25, 2011. Accessed March 5, 2011. "Christian James Lambertsen was born in Westfield, N.J., on May 17, 1917, one of four children of Chris and Ellen Lambertsen."
  6. ^ Downey, Sally A. "Christian J. Lambertsen, 93, developer of the first scuba gear", The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 21, 2011. Accessed August 12, 2019. "A native of Scotch Plains, N.J., Dr. Lambertsen worked as a youth at resorts along Barnegat Bay. An expert swimmer, he began experimenting with homemade diving equipment."
  7. ^ Conklin, Sean. "Scenes from 2016 Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS Hall of Fame Induction",, November 16, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2019. "Dr. Christian Lambertsen, (deceased) Class of 1934, a Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1944-46, Lambertsen invented the Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA)."
  8. ^ a b Shapiro, T. Rees (February 19, 2011). "Christian J. Lambertsen, OSS officer who created early scuba device, dies at 93". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ "Home".
  10. ^ The Environmental Biomedical Stress Data Center. "The Environmental Biomedical Stress Data Center". Archived from the original on June 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
  11. ^ Clark JM (2004). "The Predictive Studies Series: Correlation of physiologic responses to extreme environmental stresses". Undersea Hyperb Med. 31 (1): 33–51. PMID 15233158. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2008.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)

External links[edit]