Dr. Richard D. Vann, Ph.D.
1941-17 April 2020
Richard D. Vann, Ph.D., was an esteemed scientist interested in the effects of special environments on the physiology and safety of divers, mountaineers, aviators and astronauts. He was associated with diving for more than 60 years as a diving officer at Ocean Engineering, a U.S. Navy diving officer and a researcher at Duke University’s F.G. Hall Hyperbaric and Hypobaric Center (1971 -2010). In addition, for 20 years he directed research in the epidemiology of diving injuries and the safety of recreational diving as a vice president at Divers Alert Network (1990-2010).
He was probably best described by biostatistician Dr. Carl Pieper thus:
I have never met a mind as good as his; I have never met anyone as active and engaged in the research as Dick was. He not only wanted to understand the structure of the research but wanted to try it out and even add to it. Invariably after I taught him a new technique, he was shortly thereafter asking for reference and then coming back two days later with more questions and observations. In the end he often challenged me — in my area of expertise! He was the model of curiosity and learning.
Dr. Vann had a special interest in decompression sickness. Major human studies he conducted include: (1) Factors Affecting Decompression Sickness in Astronauts During Extravehicular Activity in Space; (2) Surface Interval Oxygen and In-Water Oxygen Repetitive Dive Tables; (3) Determination of Safe Surface Intervals Before Flying After Diving; (4) Use of Dive Computers to Record Recreational Dive Profile and Medical Outcome Data.
As emeritus, Dr. Vann continued working on probabilistic modeling of decompression sickness with Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and the analysis of diving injury and fatality data (including open-circuit, rebreather and cave diving) as a research consultant with Divers Alert Network. In the words of his coworkers, Dr. Vann had a big heart. He was a kind and generous person and a great mentor and role model. He will be missed.