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Edward D. Thalmann

Edward Deforest Thalmann
Place of birth Jersey City, New Jersey
Place of death Durham, North Carolina
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1971 - 1993
Rank Captain
Awards Legion of Merit
Other work Naval Medical Research Institute
Duke University
Divers Alert Network

Capt. Edward Deforest Thalmann, M.D., USN (ret.) (b. 3 April, 1945-d. 24 July, 2004; age 59) was an American hyperbaric medicine specialist who was principally responsible for developing the current U.S. Navy dive tables for mixed-gas diving, which are based on his eponymous Thalmann Algorithm (VVAL18).[1] At the time of his death, Thalmann was serving as Assistant Medical Director of the Divers Alert Network (DAN) and an Assistant Clinical Professor in Anesthesiology at Duke University’s Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology.[2]



Thalmann attended the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduating in 1966 with a bachelor of science degree.[3] He attended medical school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. From 1970-1971, Dr. Thalmann was a surgical intern at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Quebec. It was there that he met his future wife, a nursing student.

While on active duty, from 1975-1977, Dr. Thalmann conducted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship under the guidance of Claes Lundgren and Hermann Rahn, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, studying the effects of immersion and breathing bag placement in rebreathers on underwater exercise.[4]

Naval career

Dr. Thalmann served as Chief Medical Officer on board the ballistic missile submarine USS Thomas Jefferson for a single deployment, from 1971-1972 before being posted as a research diving medical officer at the Naval Experimental Dive Unit (NEDU) at the Washington Navy Yard, where he was stationed until 1975.

Following his post-doctoral fellowship in Buffalo, in 1977, Dr. Thalmann returned to NEDU, now located in Panama City, Florida, as Assistant Senior Medical Officer, where he began developing new dive tables and mixed-gas diving techniques.[5][6] While at NEDU, Thalmann created a number of unique and innovative underwater exercise devices, still in use today, intended to assist in gauging the underwater endurance of divers using various gas mixtures while performing physically-demanding tasks.[7]

In 1985, Dr. Thalmann, now the Senior Medical Officer at NEDU, was selected for the NATO Undersea Medicine Personnel Exchange Program and assigned to the Royal Navy Institute of Naval Medicine, Alverstoke, United Kingdom. There he continued development of a new decompression table and worked on improving undersea thermal protection garments. Upon the conclusion of his exchange tour in 1987, Thalmann returned to Bethesda to serve as the commander of the Naval Medical Research Institute's diving medicine and physiology research division.

Civilian career

Following his retirement from the Navy in 1993, Thalmann stayed on at NMRI as a senior scientist in decompression research.[8] In July of 1994 took a position in Durham, North Carolina at Duke's Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology and later accepted a simultaneous position as the Assistant Medical Director of DAN in 1995.

Dr. Thalmann died due to congestive heart failure at the age of 59 and was buried at sea, with services conducted aboard an embarked Los Angeles-class submarine.

Contributions to hyperbaric medicine

Dr. Thalmann's initial studies were aimed at developing a mathematical algorithm that reflected, as closely as possible, the science of gas exchange in human tissues and which could replace early 20th century Haldanean procedures that had been modified in the mid-20th century based largely on trial and error.

Using the concepts of maximum likelihood as a theoretical foundation, Dr. Thalmann supervised hundreds of experimental dives to develop and verify a new set of decompression tables to protect divers. These tables were approved for use by the U.S. Navy and provide for much greater flexibility in depth and duration for safe diving and allow for the use of breathing gases other than air. This increased the operational capabilities of U.S. military divers, and the Thalmann Algorithm is being used by the U.S. Navy to develop diver-carried computers to calculate safe individual time limits for complex dive of varying depth.

In addition, Dr. Thalmann’s theoretical work is being used to revise the standard U.S. Navy Decompression Tables employed for less complex dives using compressed air. This will eventually benefit future military divers as well as the thousands of civilian recreational divers, worldwide. Dr. Thalmann was also part of the team that developed the protocols used to protect U.S. astronauts from decompression sickness when they leave the 1 atmosphere environment of the International Space Station for the lower atmospheric pressure in their space suits. [8]


  •   Legion of Merit
  •   Submarine Medical insignia
  •   SSBN Deterrent Patrol insignia


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  7. ^ Anecdotal information provided by Dr. Thalmann's daughters.
  8. ^ a b
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Edward_D._Thalmann". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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