Christian J. Lambertsen

Christian James Lambertsen, M.D., D.Sc. (Hon.) (b. 15 May, 1917) is an American environmental and diving medicine specialist who was principally responsible for developing the US Navy frogmen's rebreathers in the early 1940s for underwater warfare. It was the first device to be called SCUBA. The US Navy considers him to be "the father of the Frogmen".


Lambertsen attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, graduating in 1939 with a bachelor of science degree. 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 where he did a detached service in underwater operations with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). After joining OSS, he was vital in establishing the first cadres of U.S. military operational combat swimmers during late World War II.

His responsibilities included training and developing methods of combining self-contained diving and swimmer delivery for the OSS "Operational Swimmer Group". 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 is the founder and director of The Environmental Biomedical Stress Data Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The University of Pennsylvania's annual Christian J. Lambertsen Honorary Lecture is named for him. On 31 May 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.


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


  • 1944 for Use Under Water
  • 1944 for Use Under Water
  • 1947
  • 1948 for Use Under Water
  • 1952 for Breathing Apparatus
  • 1957 for Oxygen Rebreathing Apparatus
  • 1959 for use Under Water
  • 1974
  • 1974 for Underwater Work and Oil Trapping
  • 1989

See also


External links

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