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By David Rooney on

More on Sierra Susie

David Rooney takes a closer look at Sierra Susie - one of our crash test dummies.

Last week I showed you one of our family of crash-test dummies, called Sierra Susie. I was never really sure whether that was a type name or a one-off until I found, quite by chance, a 1996 NATO report on crash test dummies. It was stuffed in a filing cabinet I had never previously had the courage to open. My office is full of them.

Anyway, right at the front I found a table of dummy types. The first whole-body test dummy was developed in 1949 by the Sierra Engineering Company for the US Air Force. He was called ‘Sierra Sam’, and the firm went on to develop a series of figures: Sierra Stan (1967), Sophisticated Sam (1968, with General Motors) and finally Sierra Susie (1970). That’s our girl! By then, other companies were developing crash test dummies, with such glorious names as Dynamic Dan, Repeatable Pete and Tuff Kelly.

Here’s the reference: Advisory Group for Aerospace Research & Development, Advisory Report 330, ‘Anthropomorphic Dummies for Crash and Escape Systems Testing’, NATO, July 1996 (ISBN 92-836-1039-3). Just in case you have trouble tracking it down, you might like to know that Mia (who runs this blog) subsequently found a very useful online history by a firm who currently make crash test dummies. Isn’t the web just one giant stuffed filing cabinet we need courage to open?

Having been responsible for acquiring our three dummies back in 1999, I got to spend quite a lot of time looking into their eyes (when moving them around the stores). It always left me rather sad. They looked so… resigned. As if they’d lost hope that the pain would ever end.

Crash test dummy on show in Making the Modern World gallery (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)
Crash test dummy on show in ‘Making the Modern World’ gallery (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)