Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: University Park, Centre County
Noted diver and Andrea Doria expert David Bright attended Penn State.
David Bright, a shipwreck historian and an experienced technical diver, was born on June 29, 1957 in Niagara Falls, NY. While swimming competitively, he became interested in scuba diving when was 12 years old. Bright attended Pennsylvania State University where he received two bachelor's degrees, one in biology, and the other in German and a master's degree in physiology. Bright had dived on the shipwreck the Andrea Doria over 120 times and other wrecks like the Titanic, the Civil War ironclad Monitor, and the Empress of Ireland.
David Alexander Bright was born June 29, 1957, in Niagara Falls, NY, where he was raised by his mother, Ann Bright. Bright also had an older brother, James, and a younger brother, Michael.
Bright was a member of a competitive swimming team in Niagara Falls. When he was 12 years old, one of his coaches of his swim team asked if he might be interested in taking a scuba diving course. He thought it was a great opportunity for him, so he became certified a year later. When he was younger, Bright would go to the library in Niagara Falls and look up old records of where battles along the Canadian and western New York borders were, and then dive the sites. "Diving wasn't done much up in that area, and I was amazed at what I was able to find," said Bright in a PBS special, Secrets of the Dead.
Bright attended Pennsylvania State University in 1980, where he received two bachelor's degrees, one in biology, and the other in German. Two years later, he received a master's degree in physiology. While attending Pennsylvania State University, Bright was also on the men's swimming team. After graduating, Bright became a member of the Eberly College of Science Alumni Board of Directors at Penn State, and he also endowed scholarships to the Penn State's swimming and diving team and to the biology department.
In the late 1980s, Bright took time off from his scuba diving career after having a family, where he and his wife, Elaine, of 23 years, had three children and raised them in Flemington, New Jersey. He commuted to New York City where he worked at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for 12 years and later retired as a research scientist. Immediately after this retirement, Bright turned to diving full time and started the Nautical Research Group in 2003. He was president of the Nautical Research Group that did nautical archaeology and scientific research on shipwrecks and other underwater sites. One of the main shipwrecks Bright explored was the Andrea Doria, which was considered the "Mount Everest of Diving" due to strong currents and limited visibility. In the 1980s, Bright had grown fascinated with the shipwreck because of that ship's collision with another ship.
The Andrea Doria, which was heading to New York from Genoa, Italy, collided with the Swedish ship Stockholm on July 25, 1956, about 60 miles southwest of the Nantucket coast. It took over 11 hours for the Andrea Doria to sink and about 50 people were killed. The Andrea Doria is now located 240 feet of water in the Atlantic. Bright, who dove the Andrea Doria over 120 times, often brought up artifacts from the ship like rare artwork, mosaics, tapestries, fine china, wine bottles and cut crystal, which he donated to museums. Bright owned several pieces of china from the ship and two of the only surviving lifeboats. He had also established the Andrea Doria Museum Project, which loans artifacts from the Andrea Doria to museums for display. In addition, Bright was the founder of the Andrea Doria Survivor Reunions Committee, which brings together survivors and their families.
Bright also dived other wrecks like the Titanic, the Civil War ironclad Monitor, and the Empress of Ireland. Bright had studied the Titanic for more than 30 years, and in 2003 and 2005, he descended to the Titanic wreck in a Russian Mir submersible to study its progressive deterioration. He also spent two years working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the exploration of the wreck of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor.
He worked on more than 40 documentaries with networks such as National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, A&E, the Learning Channel, and PBS. His expertise about the Andrea Doria was also featured in several books such as Deep Descent: Adventure and Death Diving the Andrea Doria by Kevin McMurray in 2001 and recent editions of Collision Course: The Classic Story of the Collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm by Alvin Moscow in 2004. In April 2006, Bright also gave a lecture at Penn State University called "Andrea Doria: Dive to Adventure and Danger," where he showed recent video footage of the shipwreck.
On July 8, 2006, Bright died from decompression sickness while resurfacing from a dive of the Andrea Doria. He went into cardiac arrest and was later announced dead at Cape Cod Hospital. Bright was the 14th diver to die on the Andrea Doria. On July 23, 2006, the Andrea Doria celebrated its 50th anniversary reunion at the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, where a memorial was held in Bright's honor.
Bleyer, Bill. "Divers continue to uncover Doria clues." Knight Ridder Tribune Business News 23 July 2006: 1.
Bleyer, Bill. "Shipwreck expert dies after dive." Knight Ridder Tribune Business News 11 July 2006: 1.