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Hugh DeHaven

An American volunteer in the Canadian Royal Flying Corps, student pilot Hugh DeHaven was involved in a mid-air collision during a 1917 training flight in Texas. The other pilot walked away from the crash, but DeHaven suffered two broken legs and serious internal injuries. After a six-month recovery period, DeHaven concluded that his “safety belt” had actuallycaused his life-threatening injuries. Thus began DeHaven's lifelong quest to improve aircraft safety.

The future “father” of crashworthiness research made scientific studies of accident and crash victims and survivors. He applied the principles he learned and pioneered the field of crashworthiness research.

In 1937, the US Navy took notice of DeHaven's groundbreaking research. The National Research Council and the Office of Naval Research soon asked DeHaven to join the new Crash Injury Research program at Cornell University Medical College.

Even as DeHaven continued his work in aviation safety, his research techniques and philosophy were being applied to automobile safety. His work with aircraft crash tests and passenger “packaging” laid the foundation for current vehicle safety research.