It is with profound sadness that we inform you about the passing of a beloved member of our Duke Anesthesiology family, Peter Bennett, PhD, DSc, emeritus professor of anesthesiology. He passed away on August 9 at the age of 91. Dr. Bennett will be remembered as a highly respected researcher and entrepreneur who dedicated his life's work to the advancement of diving. A champion of dive safety, he notably founded the Divers Alert Network (DAN) in 1980 - a non-profit organization, which he led for 23 years. DAN is the world’s most recognized and respected dive safety organization that helps divers in need of medical emergency assistance and promotes dive safety through research, education, products, and services.
Dr. Bennett was born in England, where he earned his doctorate and doctor of sciences in physiology and biochemistry at the University of Southampton. He began his career as a scientist investigating the physiology of deep diving, particularly the mechanisms of high-pressure nervous syndrome. In 1972, Dr. Bennett moved to the United States and joined Duke Anesthesiology where he was appointed director of research in the department and co-director of Duke’s FG Hall Environmental Laboratory. Dr. Bennett went on to become director of the lab in which he led a team of investigators during performance of a series of human deep dives in the Hall Lab’s hyperbaric chambers to a world record depth of 2,250 feet of sea water. After retiring as president of DAN in 2003, Dr. Bennett became the executive director for the Underwater Hyperbaric Medical Society until 2014. As a leading authority on the effects of high pressure on human physiology, he published more than 100 scientific papers and nine books, including the signature textbook, “Physiology and Medicine of Diving,” known as a definitive work in his field. He was also a mentor to many junior scientists around the world.
Dr. Bennett leaves behind his wife, Margaret, and son, Chris. Please join us in extending our sincerest condolences to Dr. Bennett's family, friends and colleagues. Duke flags will be lowered in honor of his life and legacy.