Most advances in motorcycle helmets have occurred due to accidents that made the need for protective head gear obvious. For example, in 1935, T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, died of head injuries while riding a motorcycle given to him by George Bernard Shaw. Lawrence's injuries led to a study of motorcycle head injuries and the efficacy of helmets by Hugh Cairns, which resulted in helmets being issued to British Army motorcycle couriers in World War II.

In the United States, the father of the shock-absorbing helmet was a University of Southern California professor named C.F. Lombard, who patented his helmet design in 1953. But in 1957, Lombard's technology was not effective enough to save the life of a racer named Pete Snell. A foundation was set up in Snell's name to periodically review helmet safety, and to this day, you wouldn't want to buy a helmet that didn't have a Snell sticker on it.

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