Hugh Bradner, 92, a physicist and oceanographer known for blending his research with a sense of fun and was widely credited with inventing the protective wet suit worn by divers, surfers and cold-water swimmers, died of pneumonia May 5 at home in San Diego.
Mr. Bradner was among a small group of scientists picked by J. Robert Oppenheimer to set up the Los Alamos atom-bomb laboratory in New Mexico.
He had a doctorate in physics from the California Institute of Technology and studied not only the constituents of the atom but also the floor of the ocean, doing both with a characteristic zest and adventurousness.
"He had more dimensions than just a scientist," said his daughter, Bari Cornet.
Competing claims as to who invented the wet suit have been entered on behalf of several people. A variety of published accounts make strong claims for Mr. Bradner, although his assertions on his own behalf are self-effacing.
One account, published last year on the Surfpulse Web site, addresses itself to the task of finding the father of the suit.
Written by veteran surfer Mike Wallace, the online account describes a major chapter in the quest as "a tale of one unsung hero, a patriotic and humble university physicist, Hugh Bradner."
It was Mr. Bradner, according to the account, who "first solved the riddle of keeping mankind both wet and warm in the ocean."
Others followed, Wallace wrote, and commercialized the suit, and he described them also as pioneers who nurtured the market.
As its name implies, the neoprene wet suit, which Mr. Bradner developed to aid U.S. Navy frogmen, permits its wearer to get wet.
Water seeps beneath the wet suit and absorbs some heat from the wearer's body. But the insulating properties of the suit, which stem from gas bubbles trapped in the neoprene, prevent that small amount of lost heat from escaping. Thus any loss of body heat is held to a minimum.
The wet suit, which is traced to Mr. Bradner's early efforts in 1951, offered great advantages over its predecessor, the so-called dry suit.
That garment involved woolen underwear beneath a rubberized layer. The inevitable seepage of water into the wool destroyed the insulating properties of the underwear.