Edward D. Thalmann

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Edward Deforest Thalmann
Captain Edward D Thalmann USN.jpg
Dr. Edward D. Thalmann, MD
Born (1945-04-03)April 3, 1945
Jersey City, New Jersey
Died July 24, 2004(2004-07-24) (aged 59)
Durham, North Carolina
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1971–1993
Rank Captain
Awards Legion of Merit
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy Unit Commendation
Navy and Marine Corps Meritorious Unit Commendation with service star
National Defense Service Medal with service star
Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon with service star
Relations Alexander E. Thalmann (nephew)
Other work Naval Medical Research Institute
Duke University
Divers Alert Network

Capt. Edward Deforest Thalmann, USN (ret.) (b. April 3, 1945-d. July 24, 2004; age 59) was an American hyperbaric medicine specialist who was principally responsible for developing the current United States Navy dive tables for mixed-gas diving, which are based on his eponymous Thalmann Algorithm (VVAL18).[1] At the time of his death, Thalmann was serving as Assistant Medical Director of the Divers Alert Network (DAN) and an Assistant Clinical Professor in Anesthesiology at Duke University's Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology.[2]


Thalmann graduated from Sayreville High School, Sayreville NJ in 1962. He attended the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduating in 1966 with a bachelor of science degree.[3] He attended medical school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. From 1970 to 1971, Dr. Thalmann was a surgical intern at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Quebec. It was there that he met his future wife, a nursing student.

While on active duty, from 1975 to 1977, Dr. Thalmann conducted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship under the guidance of Claes Lundgren and Hermann Rahn, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, studying the effects of immersion and breathing bag placement in rebreathers on underwater exercise.[4]

Naval career[edit]

Dr. Thalmann served as Chief Medical Officer on board the ballistic missile submarine USS Thomas Jefferson for a single deployment, from 1971 to 1972 before being posted as a research diving medical officer at the United States Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) at the Washington Navy Yard, where he was stationed until 1975.

Following his post-doctoral fellowship in Buffalo, in 1977, Dr. Thalmann returned to NEDU, now located in Panama City, Florida, as Assistant Senior Medical Officer, where he began developing new dive tables and mixed-gas diving techniques.[5][6] While at NEDU, Thalmann created a number of unique and innovative underwater exercise devices, still in use today, intended to assist in gauging the underwater endurance of divers using various gas mixtures while performing physically demanding tasks.[7]

In 1985, Dr. Thalmann, now the Senior Medical Officer at NEDU, was selected for the NATO Undersea Medicine Personnel Exchange Program and assigned to the Royal Navy Institute of Naval Medicine, Alverstoke, United Kingdom. There he continued development of a new decompression table and worked on improving undersea thermal protection garments. Upon the conclusion of his exchange tour in 1987, Thalmann returned to Bethesda to serve as the commander of the Naval Medical Research Institute's diving medicine and physiology research division.

Civilian career[edit]

Following his retirement from the Navy in 1993, Thalmann stayed on at NMRI as a senior scientist in decompression research.[8] In July 1994 took a position in Durham, North Carolina at Duke's Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology and later accepted a simultaneous position as the Assistant Medical Director of DAN in 1995.

Dr. Thalmann died on July 24, 2004 in Durham, due to congestive heart failure, at the age of 59. He was committed to the sea on August 31, 2004 with services conducted aboard USS Maryland, an Ohio-class submarine, off the coast of Kings Bay, Georgia at 30°57′00″N 79°53′30″W / 30.95000°N 79.89167°W / 30.95000; -79.89167.[9]

Contributions to hyperbaric medicine[edit]

Dr. Thalmann's initial studies were aimed at developing a mathematical algorithm that reflected, as closely as possible, the science of gas exchange in human tissues and which could replace early 20th century Haldanean procedures that had been modified in the mid-20th century based largely on trial and error.

Using the concepts of maximum likelihood as a theoretical foundation, Dr. Thalmann supervised hundreds of experimental dives to develop and verify a new set of decompression tables to protect divers. These tables were approved for use by the United States Navy and provide for much greater flexibility in depth and duration for safe diving and allow for the use of breathing gases other than air. This increased the operational capabilities of U.S. military divers, and the Thalmann Algorithm is being used by the United States Navy to develop diver-carried computers to calculate safe individual time limits for complex dive of varying depth.

In addition, Dr. Thalmann's theoretical work is being used to revise the standard United States Navy Decompression Tables employed for less complex dives using compressed air. This will eventually benefit future military divers as well as the thousands of civilian recreational divers, worldwide. Dr. Thalmann was also part of the team that developed the protocols used to protect U.S. astronauts from decompression sickness when they leave the 1 atmosphere environment of the International Space Station for the lower atmospheric pressure in their space suits.[8]


Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star


Refereed Journals[edit]

Non-Refereed Journals and Reports[edit]

Book Chapters[edit]

  • Vann, R.D; E.D. Thalmann (1993). "Decompression Modeling and Physiology". In Bennett, P.B. and Elliott, D.H. eds. The Physiology and Medicine of Diving and Compressed Air Work (Fourth ed.). London: Bailliere Tindall. OCLC 2000230. 
  • Thalmann, E.D., editor of Chapter 8: "Diving Medicine", in: U.S. Navy Diving Manual, Vol 1. 1984, 1993 revisions. 
  • Invited Reviewer for: "Treatment of decompression sickness", Chapter 13. In: Edmonds, C.; Lowry, C.; Pennefather, J. (1992). Diving and Subaquatic Medicine (Third ed.). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. OCLC 24009565. 
  • Thalmann, E.D. (1996). "Gas Physiology in Diving: Decompression". In Fregley, M.J. and C.M. Batteis, eds. Handbook of Physiology, Section 4: Environmental Physiology Volume II. New York: The American Physiological Society. Oxford University Press. pp. 1012–1015. 
  • Thalmann, E.D. (1997). "Diving Hazards". In Langley, R.L, McLymore, R.L., Meggs, W.J. and Roberson, G.T. eds. Safety and Health in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Rockville, MD: Government Institutes. OCLC 35750471. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Southerland, D.G.; Butler, F.K. (2001). "The U.S. Navy Dive Computer" (pdf). Retrieved 2012-10-24. (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Hard Hat History: Obituaries" (pdf). Faceplate. U.S. Navy. February 2005. p. 20. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  3. ^ "In Memoriam". Rensselaer Magazine. Rensselaer Alumni Association. Winter 2004. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  4. ^ "Ed Thalmann, M.D., Assistant Medical Director at DAN, Dies". Divers Alert Network. 2004-07-26. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  5. ^ Butler, Frank K. "The U.S. Navy Decompression Computer". Cochran Undersea Technology. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  6. ^ "Ed Thalmann, M.D., Assistant Medical Director of Divers Alert Network for nine years, died July 24 in his Durham, North Carolina, home at the age of 59" (pdf). Underwater and Hyperbaric Medicine. European Underwater and Baromedical Society. September 2004. p. 42. [dead link]
  7. ^ Anecdotal information provided by Dr. Thalmann's daughters.
  8. ^ a b Pianadosi, Claude (Fall 2004). "In Memoriam: Edward Deforest Thalmann, 1945-2004" (pdf). Duke Anesthesiology Alumnus. Duke University Department of Anesthesiology. p. 1. [dead link]
  9. ^ Rausch, C.S. (2004-08-31). "Letter from Commanding Officer, USS Maryland to Ms. Katherine N. Thalmann". Department of the Navy. 

External links[edit]