A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet Richard Rutkowski. "Dick" as everyone calls him, is a pioneer in the fields of hyperbaric medicine, diving medicine and diver training, especially in relation to the use of breathing gases.
|Photo: Adrianne Toodley|
After meeting and exchanging some fast facts about the Galapagos I had the opportunity to tell him how much I admire the people who has pushed forward diving technologies. Unfortunately, most of the time these early pioneers and explorers are hardly recognized by the general public doing vacation dives with "EAN" in their tanks.
I thought adapting some content about him may help educate the curious wondering readers who often stumble upon this blog.
A former US government officer and civilian service provider since 1950, he has worked at NOAA as Deputy Diving Coordinator, as Director of the NOAA Miami Hyperbaric Facility and as Director of NOAA Diver Training. In 1973, he founded the NOAA Diving/Hyperbaric Training and Diver Treatment Facility. Rutkowski is a NOAA aquanaut, having undergone saturation many times and holds the 1976 NOAA Public Service Award.
After retiring from NOAA, Rutkowski formed Hyperbarics International, Inc. He is also past president of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, Gulf Coast Chapter, Founder of American Nitrox Divers International (ANDI), the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD), and the Undersea Research Foundation (URF). He is appointed a National Fellow of the Explorers Club.
In the 1970s Rutkowski taught the first diving emergency and accident management courses, including stressing the importance of oxygen use at the dive site by non-professionals. In 1978, he wrote and published the first diving accident management manual, setting the Divers Alert Network standard. In 1977 he received the National Association of Underwater Instructors Outstanding Service Award.
His publications include Instructor/Student Guide for the Use of Nitrogen-Oxygen Mixtures as a Divers' Breathing Gas, The Complete Guide to Nitrox Diving, Introduction to Nitrox Diving, Instructor/Student Guide for the Use of Breathing Gases During Hyperbaric Exposures, and Mixing/Blending for Nitrox and Trimix. He has also been a contributor and editor of the NOAA Diving Manual and training films.
In the process of overcoming the negative hype surrounding oxygen-enriched air, he also gave us one of his other significant contributions to diving —a now famous quote— "Science Always Wins Over Bullshit". A sign with his quote hangs next to the table in front of Hyperbarics International and where he meet with friends and acquaintances for free beer most afternoons.