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Dick Rutkowski

Dick Rutkowski

A few weeks ago, I visited the Knight Foundation in Miami and had a few extra days so Grant and I went to the Keys to do a bit of diving and to visit Dick Rutkowski.

Dick is a pioneer and a famous character in hyperbaric and dive medicine and pioneered a lot of the work in advanced gas mixes for diving. Dick worked at the National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration (NOAA) since it was founded in 1970.

He is well know for being the first to suggest using Nitrox, which had been used extensively in the military, for recreational divers. Initially there was quite a bit of resistance, some even calling it a “voodoo gas”. Nitrox is a gas blend with a higher concentration of oxygen, which decreases the partial pressure of Nitrogen and increasing, among other things, the total “non-decompression dive time” available to divers and decreases decompression times for divers who go over the non-decompression limit.

I’m a huge fan and usually dive Nitrox whenever it is available. Japan is still rather behind in the adoption of Nitrox - I’ll write about this more some other time.

We visited Dick at his place in Key Largo and got to see all of the amazing historical diving and hyperbaric artifacts in addition to his working hyperbaric chambers where he still teaches hyperbaric medicine.

Since I am a certified PADI Nitrox diver, he cross-certified me with International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD). It was quite an honor being certified by instructor number 1 and the father of recreational Nitrox. ;-)

Dick sat in front of the whiteboard and talked gas physiology drawing diagrams and formulae reminding me of his famous quote “Science Always Wins Over Bullshit” which was written prominently on his wall.