John Paul Stapp Biography

John StappClaim to Fame: "The Fastest Man on Earth"
DOB: July 11, 1910
Date of Death: November 13, 1999
Diabetes Type: Unknown

Widely known as "The Fastest Man on Earth," John Paul Stapp was born on July 11, 1910 in Bahia, Brazil, where his parents were missionaries. After moving to the United States, he graduated from Baylor University with a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Zoology. At the age of 29, his passion to become a doctor lead him to enroll in medical school at the University of Minnesota.

During World War II, Stapp served as First Lieutenant in the Medical Corps and began a career in aerospace medical research. He often spent his time running tests for the military, and frequently volunteered himself as the test subject. His first major assignment was to test liquid oxygen breathing systems in airplanes at extremely high temperatures. Following the war, he stayed in the Medical Corps and worked with rocket-propelled sleds, studying the effects of acceleration and deceleration on the human body. The purpose of this was to find ways to safeguard people in an airplane during a crash. He took his first ride on one in December of 1947 and by the following May he had taken 16 rides. He earned the nickname "Fastest Man on Earth" in 1954 when he accelerated a rocket-propelled sled to a land speed record of 632 miles per hour in 5 seconds and then came to a full stop in 1.4 seconds. The result was that his body experienced more than 40 times the pull of gravity. He suffered no critical injuries, but was temporarily blinded and his vision never fully recovered. This experiment proved that people could survive the deceleration of ejection from an aircraft at 1,800 miles per hour at an altitude of 35,000 feet.

After completing his rides on rockets, Stapp married Lillian Lanese in 1958. He then worked on trying to improve automobile safety. He felt that the safety measures he worked on in the military could be applied to civilian cars. He spent years working on car crashes and going to car crash conferences. He also become famous for coining the term "Murphy's Law" during a press conference, after a Captain Murphy who made a mistake that caused Stapp injuries. In 1970, Stapp retired from the military at the rank of Colonel. He worked as a college professor at the University of California's Safety and Management Center and as a consultant to the Surgeon General and NASA. Stapp passed away in 1999 at the age of 89 from diabetes and emphysema.

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Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

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by Nicole Purcell
I had a bad one last night. A scary low bloodsugar that reminded me just how tenuous diabetes makes my existence. I hate those. I hate the feeling that I'm anything less than a strong, capable woman. Diabetes, like a sledge hammer to the knees, has a way of hobbling the confidence I have in my health, strength and well-being. It is both frustrating and disheartening. It's 2:00 am and a good friend called from their third shift job because they needed someone. Just...