Swedish-born Nils Ivar Bohlin has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since the three-point seat belt he invented was first offered by Volvo in 1959.
In the late 1950s, only two-point lap belts were available -- and unused except by racecar drivers.
Bohlin had developed ejection seats for Saab fighter aircraft in the 1950s. When Volvo CEO Gunnar Engelau lost a relative in a car crash, he recruited Bohlin to boost safety.
Bohlin's task was formidable. After working with the four-point harnesses of fighter pilots, he knew the limitations of lap belts and the impracticality of four-point systems in cars. He focused on combating the harsh deceleration forces of crashes.
Within a year, Bohlin engineered a simple solution that is the industry's most effective and widely-used life-saver: the three-point seat belt.
Volvo first offered the system in 1959. Almost 50 years later, the seat belt is standard equipment. Engineers have enhanced it, but Bohlin's basic design is unchanged.
He also developed Volvo traffic-accident research based on real-life data instead of theoretical research. Bohlin also created the principles and started development of Volvo side-impact protection systems.
He died in 2002 at the age of 82.