Christian J. Lambertsen

Christian J. Lambertsen
Christian James Lambertsen

Dr. Lambertsen, U.S. Army in 1942
Born May 15, 1917(1917-05-15)
Westfield, New Jersey
Died February 11, 2011(2011-02-11) (aged 93)
Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Residence Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Nationality United States United States of America
Fields Aerospace medicine, Undersea medicine, Diving medicine, Hyperbaric medicine, Physiology, and Engineering.
Institutions Institute for Environmental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Alma mater - Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey – B.S. (1939)
- University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – M.D. (1943)
Doctoral students J.M. Clark, J.N. Feld, R.E. Peterson, J.M. Collins, S. Kronheim, M.L Gernhardt, L.H. Fenton
Known for Research in tolerance and toxicity of respiratory gasses and development of diving procedures and equipment.
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 (portmanteau for Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit) and finally, in 1952, he changed again his invention's name to SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus).[2] In spite of that diving regulator technology was invented by Émile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1943 and wasn't originally related to rebreathers, nowadays' use of the word SCUBA is largely attributed to Gagnan's and Cousteau's invention. The US Navy considers Lambertsen to be "the father of the Frogmen".[3][4]



Lambertsen was born in Westfield, New Jersey and attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, graduating in 1939 with a bachelor of science degree.[5] He graduated from medical school at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1943.

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

Army career

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. [6] OSS not only bought into the concept, they hired Major Labertsen to lead the program and build-up the dive element of their maritime unit. [6] 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. [7]

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

From 1946 to 1953 Lambertsen served as an instructor to Professor of Pharmacology with 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. He maintains this position to this day.

Lambertsen was the founder and director of The Environmental Biomedical Stress Data Center[8] at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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, which has led to a new therapy used by more than a million patients. Dr. Lambertsen was in attendance.

Contributions to environmental medicine

Predictive Studies Series

Dr. Lambertsen's "Predictive Studies Series", spanning from 1969 with TEKTITE I to 1997, researched many aspects of humans in extreme environments.[9]


University and National Civilian Awards and Honors

  • 1979 Award in Environmental Science, Aerospace Medical Association
  • 1979 Award for Naval Undersea Research Training, Undersea Medical Society
  • 1980 Association of Diving Contractors Award
  • 1984 Endowed Visiting Lectureship, Sterling Pharmaceutical Corporation
  • 1989 Distinguished Medical Graduate Award, University of Pennsylvania
  • 1992 Boerema Award, Hyperbaric Oxygen Research, Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society
  • 1995 UDT-SEAL Association Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 1995 Department of Defense Citation
  • 1997 UDT-SEAL Association: Honorary Lifetime Membership
  • 1999 Beneath the Sea: Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2001 Pioneer Award – Navy Historical Society
  • 2001 CJL Oxygen Symposium X, Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society
  • 2007 American College of Physicians Fellowship Award 2007

Military Service and Related Awards

  • 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

  • 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 Telescope Repair EVA
  • 1995 NASA JSC “In-Suit” Doppler Panel
  • 1998 Chairman, NASA Advisory Panel, Committee on ISS Decompression Risk Definition & Contigency Plan
  • 1998–1999 Chairman, NASA Life Sciences Decompression Research Peer Reviews


Refereed journals

  • Clark, J. M., B. E. Skolnick, R. Gelfand, R. E. Farber, M. Stierheim, W. C. Stevens, G. Beck, Jr., and C. J. Lambertsen. (November 1996). "Relationship of 133Xe cerebral blood flow to middle cerebral arterial flow velocity in men at rest". J. Cereb. Blood Flow Metab. 16 (6): 1255–62. doi:10.1097/00004647-199611000-00021. PMID 8898699. 
  • Clark JM, Gelfand R, Lambertsen CJ, Stevens WC, Beck G, Fisher DG (April 1995). "Human tolerance and physiological responses to exercise while breathing oxygen at 2.0 ATA". Aviat Space Environ Med 66 (4): 336–45. PMID 7794226. 
  • Lambertsen, C. J. Physiologic factors in human organ oxygen tolerance extension. SPUMS 20(2): 109–120, April–May 1990.
  • Lambertsen CJ (1988). "Extension of oxygen tolerance in man: philosophy and significance". Exp. Lung Res. 14 Suppl: 1035–58. doi:10.3109/01902148809064191. PMID 3061791. 
  • Torbati D, Greenberg JH, Lambertsen CJ (April 1986). "Regional cerebral glucose metabolic rate during thirty minutes hypoxia of 7% oxygen in adult conscious rats". Neurosci. Lett. 65 (3): 253–8. doi:10.1016/0304-3940(86)90270-3. PMID 3714108. 
  • Marsh RR, Lambertsen CJ, Schwartz DM, Clark JM, Wetmore RF (June 1985). "Auditory and vestibular function in hyperbaric oxygen". Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 93 (3): 390–3. PMID 3927236. 
  • Ranade A, Lambertsen CJ, Noordergraaf A (1980). "Inert gas exchange in the middle ear". Acta Otolaryngol Suppl 371: 1–23. PMID 6272533. 
  • Gelfand, R., C.J. Lambertsen, J.M. Clark, N. Egawa and C.D. Puglia. Ventilatory and cardiac adjustments during rapid compressions to pressure equivalents of 400-800-1200-1600 feet of sea water. Med. Aeronaut. Spatiale Med. Subaquat. Hyperbare. 17(65): 114–116, 1978.
  • Lambertsen, C.J., J.P.W. Cunnington and J.R.M. Cowley. The dynamics and composition of spontaneous, continuous gas embolism in the pig during isobaric gas counterdiffusion. Fed. Proc. 34: 452, 1975.
  • Lambertsen, C.J., R. Gelfand, R.E. Peterson, R. Strauss, W.B. Wright, J.G. Dickson, Jr., C. Puglia, and R.W. Hamilton, Jr. (September 1977). "Human tolerance to He, Ne, and N2 at respiratory gas densities equivalent to He-O2 breathing at depths to 1200, 2000, 3000, 4000, and 5,000 feet (1,500 m) of sea water (predictive studies III)". Aviat Space Environ Med 48 (9): 843–53. PMID 303098. 
  • Alexander WC, Leach CS, Fischer CL, Lambertsen CJ, Johnson PC (July 1973). "Hematological, biochemical, and immunological studies during a 14-day continuous exposure to 5.2 per cent O 2 in N 2 at pressure equivalent to 100 FSW (4 ATA)". Aerosp Med 44 (7): 850–4. PMID 4123806. 
  • Johnson PC, Driscoll TB, Alexander WC, Lambertsen CJ (July 1973). "Body fluid volume changes during a 14-day continuous exposure to 5.2 per cent O 2 in N 2 at pressure equivalent to 100 FSW (4 ATA)". Aerosp Med 44 (7): 860–3. PMID 4716937. 
  • Lambertsen CJ, Wright WB (July 1973). "Multiday exposure to 5.2 per cent O 2 at 4 ATA. Scope of program". Aerosp Med 44 (7): 828–33. PMID 4716933. 
  • Lambertsen CJ, Wright WB (July 1973). "Multiday exposure of men to high nitrogen pressure and increased airway resistance at natural expired oxygen tension: a 14-day continuous exposure to 5.2 per cent O 2 in N 2 at 4.0 atmospheres absolute pressure". Aerosp Med 44 (7): 826–7. PMID 4716932. 
  • Lambertsen CJ, Bardin H (July 1973). "Decompression from acute and chronic exposure to high nitrogen pressure". Aerosp Med 44 (7): 834–6. PMID 4716934. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J., R. Gelfand, M.J. Lever, G. Bodammer, N. Takano, T.A. Reed, J.G. Dickson and P.T. Watson. (July 1973). "Respiration and gas exchange during a 14-day continuous exposure to 5.2 per cent O2 in N2 at pressure equivalent to 100 FSW (4 ATA)". Aerosp Med 44 (7): 844–9. PMID 4716936. 
  • Leach CS, Alexander WC, Fischer CL, Lambertsen CJ, Johnson PC (July 1973). "Endocrine studies during a 14-day continuous exposure to 5.2 per cent O 2 in N 2 at pressure equivalent to 100 FSW (4 ATA)". Aerosp Med 44 (7): 855–9. PMID 4352047. 
  • Wright WB, Fisher AB, Hendricks PL, Brody JS, Lambertsen CJ (July 1973). "Pulmonary function studies during a 14-day continuous exposure to 5.2 per cent O2 in N2 at pressure equivalent to 100 FSW (4 ATA)". Aerosp Med 44 (7): 837–43. PMID 4716935. 
  • Nichols CW, Yanoff M, Hall DA, Lambertsen CJ (April 1972). "Histologic alterations produced in the eye by oxygen at high pressure". Arch. Ophthalmol. 87 (4): 417–21. PMID 5018246. 
  • Lambertsen CJ, Bullard RW (November 1970). "Introduction—the scope of the symposium". Aerosp Med 41 (11): 1265. PMID 5490162. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J., and R.W. Bullard (eds.). Temperature limitations in manned undersea and aerospace operations. Aerospace Med. 41: 1263–1288, 1970.
  • Nichols CW, Lambertsen CJ, Clark JM (April 1969). "Transient unilateral loss of vision associated with oxygen at high pressure". Arch. Ophthalmol. 81 (4): 548–52. PMID 5777761. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J. (ed.). Modern aspects of treatment of decompression sickness. Aerospace Med. 39: 1055–1093, 1968.
  • Lambertsen CJ (October 1968). "Concepts for advances in the therapy of bends in undersea and aerospace activity". Aerosp Med 39 (10): 1086–93. PMID 5678083. 
  • Lambertsen CJ (1968). "Limitations and breakthroughs in manned undersea activity". Triangle 8 (5): 167–77. PMID 5760415. 
  • Reivich M, Dickson J, Clark J, Hedden M, Lambertsen CJ (1968). "Role of hypoxia in cerebral circulatory and metabolic changes during hypocarbia in man: studies in hyperbaric milieu". Scand. J. Clin. Lab. Invest. Suppl. 102: IV:B. PMID 4283874. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J. (July 1965). "Medical implications of high oxygen pressures". Trans Stud Coll Physicians Phila 33: 1–18. PMID 14344614. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J. (April 1963). "The philosophy of extremes for the gaseous environment of manned, closed ecological systems". Aerosp Med 34: 291–9. PMID 13928280. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J. (1963). "Physiological interactions and gaseous environment in manned exploration of space". Fed. Proc. 22: 1046–50. PMID 14046275. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J., P. Hall, H. Wollman and M.W. Goodman (June 1963). "Quantitative interactions of increased Po2 and Pco2 upon respiration in man". Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 109 (2): 731–42. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1963.tb13502.x. PMID 13928279. 
  • Toole, J. F., L.J. Barrows, C.J. Lambertsen, and B. Roberts. (March 1961). "Cerebral ischemia and infarction". Am Pract Dig Treat 12: 147–54. PMID 13777430. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J. and S.G. Owen (1960). "Continuous, constant-rate sampling modification of nitrous oxide method for cerebral blood flow in man". Methods Med Res 8: 262–9. PMID 14413615. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J. (July 1958). "From submarines to satellites". Circ. Res. 6 (4): 405–9. PMID 13547394. 
  • Daly, M.deB., C.J. Lambertsen and A. Schweitzer (August 1953). "Some observations on the carotid body blood flow in the cat". Am. J. Med. Sci. 226 (2): 230. PMID 13065304. 
  • Daly, M. deB., C.J. Lambertsen and A. Schweitzer. The effects upon the bronchial musculature of altering the oxygen and carbon dioxide tensions of the blood perfusing the brain. J. Physiol. 119(2&3): 292–314, 1953.
  • Lambertsen, C.J., R.H. Kough, D.Y. Cooper, G.L. Emmel, H.H. Loeschcke and C.F. Schmidt. Comparison of relationship of respiratory minute volume to PCO2 and pH of arterial and internal jugular blood in normal man during hyperventilation produced by low concentrations of CO2 at 1 atmosphere and by O2 at 3.0 atmospheres. J. Appl. Physiol. 5(12): 803–813, 1953.
  • Lambertsen, C.J., P.L. Bunce, D.L. Drabkin and C.F. Schmidt. (June 1952). "Relationship of oxygen tension to hemoglobin oxygen saturation in the arterial blood of normal men". J Appl Physiol 4 (12): 873–85. PMID 14946085. 
  • Lambertsen CJ, Clark JK (December 1949). "The pulmonary oxygen diffusion coefficient". Am. J. Med. Sci. 218 (6): 715. PMID 15393997. 
  • Lambertsen, C.J. Problems of shallow water diving. Report based on experiences of operational swimmers of the Office of Strategic Services. Occup. Med. 3: 230–245, 1947.
  • Lambertsen, C.J., and L. Godfrey. A small efficient hood for oxygen therapy. J.A.M.A. 125: 492–493, 1944.
  • Lambertsen, C.J. A diving apparatus for life saving work. J.A.M.A. 116: 1387–1389, 1941.
  • Atkinson, W.J., Jr., J.L. Dean, E.H. Kennerdell and C.J. Lambertsen. A multiple anomaly of the human heart and pulmonary veins. Anat. Record 78(3): 383–388, 1940.


  • 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


  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. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  4. ^ a b Butler FK (2004). "Closed-circuit oxygen diving in the U.S. Navy". Undersea Hyperb Med 31 (1): 3–20. PMID 15233156. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  5. ^ 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. ^ a b Shapiro, T. Rees (February 19, 2011). "Christian J. Lambertsen, OSS officer who created early scuba device, dies at 93". The Washington Post. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ The Environmental Biomedical Stress Data Center. "The Environmental Biomedical Stress Data Center". Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  9. ^ Clark JM (2004). "The Predictive Studies Series: Correlation of physiologic responses to extreme environmental stresses". Undersea Hyperb Med 31 (1): 33–51. PMID 15233158. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 

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