DIVING INDUSTRY MOURNS DEATH OF DAN FOUNDER PETER BENNETTPeter Bennett, PhD, DSc – a passionate researcher and entrepreneur who founded Divers Alert Network in 1980 and led the organization for 23 years – passed away in August in the company of his wife, Margaret, and son, Chris.

Born in Portsmouth, England, on 12 June 1931, Bennett studied chemistry and biology at the University of London, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951. After university he worked at the Royal Navy Physiological Laboratory and, in 1964, earned his doctorate in physiology and biochemistry from the University of Southampton.

Bennett loved diving medicine and physiology and was a charter member of the Undersea Medical Society at its founding in 1967. He was later its president (1975-1976), the editor of its journal (1976-1979), and its executive director (beginning in 2007).

In 1972, Bennett moved to the United States, where he was first named deputy director and later director of the F.G. Hall Laboratory hyperbaric chamber facility at Duke University Medical Centre in Durham, North Carolina. In 1980, Bennett submitted a proposal to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for a grant to fund an emergency hotline for injured divers.

Thus Bennett and his colleagues at Duke undertook responsibility for the hotline that would eventually grow and become Divers Alert Network.

During his 23-year tenure at the helm of DAN, Bennett oversaw introduction of the organization’s membership programme, dive accident insurance programme, research department, continuing medical education programme, training department, and more.

An emeritus professor of anesthesiology at Duke University, Bennett published more than 100 journal publications, 31 book chapters, and several books, including Physiology and Medicine of Diving, a definitive work in the field. He also published numerous reports, workshop proceedings, and abstracts. Among his areas of interest were trimix, deep stops, and high-pressure nervous syndrome.

Over the years Bennett received many awards, including the 1980 NOGI Award for Sciences by the Underwater Society of America. He also received recognition from DEMA, SSI, the Underwater Society of America, the National Academy of Scuba Educators, NAUI, the British Historical Diving Society, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and many others.

“In founding DAN, Dr. Bennett accomplished something truly remarkable,” said DAN president and CEO Bill Ziefle. “It is because of his vision and action that divers all over the world now have the support of an organization that stands ready to assist in the event of an emergency. Dr. Bennet’s inquisitive mind and drive to achieve were gifts to divers everywhere.”
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