Nils Ivar Bohlin (July 17, 1920 – September 26, 2002) was a Swedish inventor who invented the three-point safety belt while working at Volvo.
Born in Härnösand, Sweden, he received a diploma in mechanical engineering from Härnösand Läroverk in 1939. In 1942 he started working for the aircraft maker Saab as an aircraft designer and helped develop ejection seats. In 1958 he joined Volvo as a safety engineer. He is credited with the invention of the modern 3-point safety belt, now a standard safety feature in all cars.
Bohlin worked on the seat belt for about a year, using skills in developing ejection seats for SAAB; he concentrated on keeping the driver safe in a car accident. After testing the 3-point safety belt, he introduced his invention to the Volvo company in 1959 and received his first patent (number 3,043,625). Ten years later, he led the Central Research and Development Department for Volvo in 1969.
In 1974, he was awarded The Ralph Isbrandt Automotive Safety Engineering Award, and in 1989 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Safety and Health. He received a gold medal from Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences in 1995 and in 1999, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. He retired from Volvo in 1985 and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
During his adult life, he was married to Maj-Britt Bohlin. He was stepfather to Maj-Britts four sons and then had a daughter together and 13 grandchildren.
Nils Bohlin died on September 26, 2002 at the age of 82, of a heart attack and was buried at Torpa Church in Ramfall, Sweden.
Effects on History
The three-point seat belt changed the world by preventing injuries during a car crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the seat belt saves about 11,000 lives each year in the USA alone. There are also seat belts in airplanes, buses, and is heavily used in sporting races.
In addition to designing an effective three-point belt, Bohlin demonstrated its effectiveness in a study of 28,000 accidents in Sweden, and presented a paper at the 11th Stapp Car Crash Convention. Unbelted occupants sustained fatal injuries throughout the whole speed scale, whereas none of the belted occupants was fatally injured at accident speeds below 60 mph. No belted occupant was fatally injured if the passenger compartment remained intact. This study resulted in the U.S. Department of Transportation requiring three-point seat belts in American cars. In 1968, the new seat belt design was made free for the public to use. In most industrial countries, occupants are required by law to use seat belts.
U.S. Patent 3,043,625 Safety Belt, filed August 1959, issued July 1962.