The motorsports world has lost more than a pioneer with the death of Robert Hubbard.

The former Michigan State University professor and inventor of the HANS device died Tuesday, according to’s Adam Cooper. HANS has saved the lives of scores of drivers since its adoption by restraining their heads and preventing skull fractures from taking place during collisions.

Hubbard and his brother-in-law Jim Downing conceived HANS in 1985, but more than a decade passed before racing circuits like Formula One and NASCAR adopted it on a widespread basis. The 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. was a watershed moment in the acceptance of HANS, as thousands of the devices were sold in the months following his tragic accident.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images