1983: Rolla N. Harger Dies; Invented Drunkometer

New York Times, August 10, 1983

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 9— Dr. Rolla N. Harger, who in 1931 invented the Drunkometer to test intoxicated drivers, died Monday at his home here. He was 93 years old.

Dr. Harger had been a professor emeritus of biochemistry and toxicology at Indiana University since 1960 and a consultant on toxicology to the university’s School of Medicine since 1963.  

The Drunkometer, which used a balloon into which people breathed, was the first practical breath test to measure whether people were drunk. The device was patented in 1936.

Breathalyzer tests have been used more recently to determine drunkenness.

In 1938 Dr. Harger was one of five members on a subcommittee of the National Safety Council that drafted a model act to legalize the use of evidence from chemical tests for intoxication and to set limits of body alcohol concentration for motorists. The act was incorporated into drunken driving laws nationwide.

Dr. Harger was chairman of the Indiana University School of Medicine’s department of biochemistry and pharmacology from 1933 to 1956 and worked as professor of biochemistry and toxicology from 1922 to 1960. Funeral services will be held Thursday.


Start the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *