Scuba pioneer Lambertsen dies at 93

The "father of US combat swimming" who pioneered the first underwater breathing system and later helped coin the phrase "scuba" has died at the age of 93. Scientist and doctor Christian J. Lambertsen died at his home in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania on February 11. Dr Lambertsen developed the first underwater breathing system, which went on to be used by the military in the Second World War, while studying medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. During the War he worked with the US Army's office of strategic services to establish special underwater forces deployed in Burma and later worked with the US Navy to train surface frogmen to become divers. Dr Lambertsen is survived by sons Christian, David, Richard, Bradley and his six grandchildren. He was born on May 15, 1917 and earned a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University. He began working on his breathing apparatus, using parts of anaesthesia machines, even before he enrolled as a medical student at university, according to medical school dean Arthur Rubenstein, who called him "one of our institution's most honoured professors". Dr Lambertsen's background as a doctor, inventor and diver made him "the right man in the right place at the right time" for the development of an early version of the device later known as scuba or "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus". Among his many honours are the highest civilian awards from the US Department of Defence and Coast Guard. In 2000, US Navy SEALS proclaimed him "the father of US combat swimming".

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