Herbert Beller '65
Alumnus invents a safer automobile seat belt retractor
Each day, when we get into our automobiles and buckle our seat belts, we give little thought to the mechanism that keeps us safe in potential accidents. Herbert Beller '65 gave it a lot of thought back in the early 1970s when shoulder-strap seat belts were tight and restrictive. Consequently, people were unlikely to wear them.
At that time, Beller was the coordinating manager at the Jim Robbins Seat Belt Co., where he managed five of the company’s plants in Europe. He devised a mechanism for the retractable shoulder seat belt that would give passengers some mobility, yet would “lock” them in place when the vehicle experienced a sudden acceleration or deceleration. Beller holds the 1975 patent for the mechanism, which, according to Beller, is currently being used by all automotive manufacturers throughout the world.
“The excellent education that I received at U of D gave me the opportunity to expand on some of the ideas I had and make them practical and mechanically sound, one of which was the seat belt retractor,” said Beller, who earned his Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering through an evening “extended day” program that was available for Engineering students.
Thanks to Beller’s invention, people began wearing the more comfortable seat belts. How many lives have been saved? It’s impossible to calculate.
Beller believes that education is key to those with an inventor’s mind to make their ideas a reality. “To all who are contemplating a higher education, go for it, not just for monetary reasons, but for a more fulfilling and meaningful life,” he added.
Beller recently donated the original prototype and the first manufactured seat belt retractor (pictured above with Beller) to the College of Engineering & Science, where it is on display in the College’s Hall of Honor.