Dr. Albert Behnke; Expert on Divers’ Problems


Albert Behnke, a Navy doctor whose contributions to the field of decompression research were credited with saving countless lives and who helped develop the diving bell used to rescue submariners, has died.

A family spokesman said this week that he died Jan. 16 in San Francisco at the age of 88.

Born in Chicago and raised in New Mexico and California, Behnke earned his medical degree from Stanford University in 1930 and did postdoctoral studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he began his research on the physiology of diving.

As a Navy medical officer in 1939, he was involved in the lengthy effort to salvage the Navy submarine Squalus, which had sunk in the Atlantic. Thirty-three crewmen were saved.


In 1950, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for saving the life of a civilian skin diver who surfaced too quickly off Monterey. Behnke, then a Navy captain, spent two days in a decompression chamber with the man.

After retirement, Behnke set up a bends prevention and safety program for crews working underground to build the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.