Richard D. Vann: Legendary Researcher and Champion of Dive Safety

April 21, 2020: It is with great sadness that Divers Alert Network® (DAN®) announces the passing of its former vice president of research, Richard D. Vann, Ph.D.

Dr. Vann was an esteemed researcher whose work focused on the physiology of breathing and exercise in special environments and the epidemiology of pressure-change-related injuries. His extensive career spanned more than 60 years, and his research supported the implementation of safer pressure-exposure protocols in diving, mountaineering, aviation and space exploration.

A former U.S. Navy SEAL, Vann was a true champion of diver safety whose work is foundational to many of today’s dive safety standards. He was dedicated to preventing dive fatalities and understanding the mechanisms of decompression sickness, and his outstanding leadership made a direct impact on nearly all of today’s leading dive safety researchers.

During his 40 years at Duke University’s F.G. Hall Laboratory and his 20 years at DAN, Vann conducted some of his most notable studies in the epidemiology of diving injuries, safety in recreational diving, and human decompression.

In addition to his research, Vann was instrumental in orchestrating and publishing workshop and conference proceedings, modeling the probability of decompression sickness and analyzing dive injury and fatality data. Vann also made significant contributions to diving through his work at Ocean Systems, Inc. and as a member of U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Team 12.

Vann has been recognized worldwide for his research and accomplishments by organizations such as the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS), NASA, the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences (AUAS), the U.S. Navy and others. His research changed the way the scientific community views and understands the mechanisms of diving injuries.

The life’s work of this scholar and gentleman led to the identification and resolution of many issues of substantial practical importance to divers. Dick Vann will be dearly missed by all who knew him, but his legacy will live on in all who are able to dive more safely because of him.

“Dick Vann’s work made significant and lasting impacts on diving,” said Bill Ziefle, DAN president and CEO. “Because of him, divers everywhere are safer. It was an honor to work with him ― he will truly be missed by all of us here at DAN.”