Home / Culture / 26,000 saved lives later, Auburn alum finally getting credit for the air bag

26,000 saved lives later, Auburn alum finally getting credit for the air bag

George Kirchoff, pioneer of the airbag, holds a photo of George Kirchoff pioneering the airbag.

How many Auburn grads does it take to save what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates to be at least 26,000 lives?

One—an engineering grad named George Kirchoff. He’s 79, he lives in Montrose, Ala, and he’s the father of the airbag. Not that you’d know.

Though he holds several patents related to the airbag’s assembly, Kirchoff has never been one to toot his own horn, as it were. But his pioneer status in the development the life-saving technology is slowly being recognized.

Here's our boy's senior photo from the 1955 Glomerata.

In 1992, Ralph Nader gave Kirchoff props–“The inventors of the airbag technology have remained anonymous for too long”–while presenting him a safety award. Nader, a former presidential candidate and consumer advocate, is the author of “Unsafe at Any Speed,” an expose on the dangers of auto manufacturing.

This year, BMW recognized Kirchoff with a lifetime achievement award for his “many years of tireless innovation on automotive airbags to help save lives and reduce serious injuries, anonymous to those you protected.”

And a feature on Kirchoff, who graduated from Auburn in 1955 with a degree in engineering and a 1946 Ford convertible without an airbag, was the cover story of yesterday’s Mobile Press-Register. You can read it here.

“A surgeon once told me, ‘You’ve saved more lives than I have,’” Kirchoff said.

h/t Miles Ball and Michael Mayberry. Photo via.

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