Colonel John Stapp: 8 Cool Facts

Before I start today’s post, I believe this video is befitting of what and who I am about to write…

Colonel John Stapp Was A Real Life Rocket Man

This genius was born in 1910 and passed away peacefully in 1999.

Today, I am going to share 8 cool facts about Colonel John Stapp. He is a man that has made certain technologies safer for everyone who uses them.

#1: Stapp Joined The U.S. Army Air Forces In 1944

It was the midst of World War II when John Stapp joined the United States Air Forces as a physician. He qualified as a flight surgeon. In 1946, John was made a project officer and medical consultant in the Biophysics Branch at Wright Field in the Aero Medical Laboratory.

When the Air Force became a separate branch, he transferred.

#2: Stopping The Bends

The first assignment Stapp had was working with the issues of decompression sickness (the bends) in high altitude flights. He developed an oxygen system that solved the issue which is used to this day.

#3: Deceleration

The next studies and tests is where Stapp gained his fame. The mission was to find ways to better protect personnel in the case of aircraft crashes. Working with Aero Medical Lab, they developed equipment to simulate aircraft crashes. They wanted to study strength factors of seat belts and harnesses.

And they also wanted to study the human tolerance to deceleration… So Stapp and crew developed a rocket sled. In 1947, the team started using the sled to make runs using humans both rear and front facing.

The cool part is, John Stapp was often the test subject.

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#4: Becoming The Fastest Man On Earth

Dr. John Stapp became the fastest man on Earth in 1954 on that rocket propelled sled. Within 5 seconds of taking off, he was traveling at 632 miles per hour. The deceleration was a dead stop in 1.4 seconds. The pressure was 40 times the pull of gravity. The force of the stop was the same that a driver would feel smashing into a brick wall at 120 miles per hour.


#5: The Damage To Stappjohn stapp

That high speed run caused damages that included:

  • 2 broken wrists
  • temporary blindness as the blood vessels in his eyes had burst
  • cracked ribs
  • and some respiratory issues

But all came out well in the end.

#6: Seat Reversal

Dr. Stapp found that the effects of high G’s were lessened if seats in planes were turned backwards. The military agreed and most seats in military aircraft were changed to face the rear. More people would survive sudden crashes with seats backwards.

Many people, who know this, wonder why all major airlines still have passenger seats facing the front.

#7: Seat Belts In Cars

You can thank Dr. Stapp that all cars were required to have seat belts.

Dr. Stapp was present as President Lyndon Johnson signed the Highway Safety Act of 1966, requiring seat belts in all new cars sold in the United States beginning in 1968.

#8: Captain Murphy

Colonel Stapp worked closely with Captain Murphy. In one experiment, Captain Murphy made a mistake of not wiring gauges correctly.

Maybe you have always wondered who originally coined “Murphy’s Law?” It was Stapp…

Anything that can go wrong, will!”

John Stapp also created Stapp’s Law which says:

“The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.”

Final Thoughts

As I ponder that last fact, I just realized I have performed a miracle.

I finished this post!

We owe much thanks to Colonel John Stapp. His research and inventions have saved many lives and will continue doing so.

Let’s hear your thoughts. Post them below and have a great day.



About The Author

Greg Boudonck is a full time freelance writer and the author of over 50 books. He served in the United States Army in the early 1980’s and enjoys writing about military subjects. You can see Greg’s books on Amazon by searching his name and you can also visit his website at

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