Hugh Bradner - Neoprene Wetsuit

Hugh Bradner was an American physicist at the University of California whose invention of the wetsuit first revolutionized scuna diving then surfing and other water sports.

Bradner took a position studying high-energy physics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1946 under Luis Alvarez, whom he had worked with at the Manhattan Project.

Bradner's job at UC Berkeley required him to do a number of underwater dives. He had previously talked to United States Navy frogmen during World War II concerning the problems of staying in cold water for long periods of time, which causes the diver to lose large amounts of body heat quickly. On advice from Scripps Institute scientist Willard Bascom he began experimenting with neoprene, a rubbery substance which he found "would trap the water between the body and the neoprene, and the water would heat up to body temperature and keep you warm."

He worked on developing the new suit in the basement of his family's home in Berkeley.He further researched the new wetsuit for Naval swimmers at a conference in Coronado, California, in December 1951.

Bradner applied for a U.S. patent for the wetsuit, but his patent application was turned down due to its similar design with the flight suit. The United States Navy also did not adopt the new wetsuits because of worries that the neoprene in the wetsuits might make its swimmers easier to spot by underwater sonar and, thus, could not exclusively profit from his invention.

Bradner and his company, EDCO, tried to sell his wetsuits in the consumer market. However, he failed to successfully penetrate the wetsuit market the way others did later - including Bob Meistrell and Bill Meistrell, the founders of Body Glove, and Jack O'Neill. Various claims have been made over the years that it was the O'Neill or the Meistrell brothers who actually invented the wetsuit instead of Bradner. However, recent research into over 50 years of paperwork have proven that it was Bradner who created the original wetsuit, not his close competitors.

In 2005, the Los Angeles Times research confirmed Bradner to be the "father of the wetsuit." A research paper published by Carolyn Rainey in 1998 at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography also provided corroborating evidence that it was Bradner who created the first wetsuit.

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