Dr. Lee H. Somers passed away quietly on New Year’s Day 2015 in Flagstaff, AZ. Lee was born on February 18, 1938, in Champaign County, IL, and raised on a farm there. He discovered his love of water and knack for teaching in Boy Scouts, becoming an Eagle Scout. After working as a commercial hard-hat diver in Florida, Lee earned a Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Michigan. He was on the University of Michigan faculty for 30 years, teaching oceanography, scuba diving, and diving technology, while serving as the university’s Diving Safety Officer.
He also established a hyperbaric chamber for treatment and research at the University of Michigan. Lee was deeply involved in improving diving safety for recreational divers, public safety search and rescue personnel, and commercial divers. To this end, working with the NOAA-National Sea Grant Program, he gave countless presentations and field demonstrations across the country, and wrote dozens of books, papers, and leaflets. In 1972 Lee wrote the Research Diver’s Manual, used worldwide. He was a major contributor to the NOAA Diving Manual, the research text for all working divers and diving scientists.
Lee was a founding member of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), a founder and first president of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences, and a founding director of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society®, which provides experiential year-long Rolex scholarships worldwide to graduates studying ocean sciences and arts. Lee received many prestigious national awards, most recently the 2013 DEMA Reaching Out Award for Education. Lee helped shape the way the world dives, and he was an inspiration and mentor to many. Lee retired to Flagstaff, AZ, with his wife, Martha, who survives him.