As with much of history, there are always debates over who was “the first” to design or use something. The same goes with the history of the motorcycle helmet. Part of the debate is what constitutes a “helmet” and depending on your definition, there are three possible choices.
One of the first designs could be attributed to Gottlieb Daimler, the inventor of one of “the first” three motorcycles with an internal combustion engine called the Reitwagen. In 1885, he introduced a relatively simple leather cap to protect riders’ heads.
Next, is Dr. Eric Gardner, who in 1914, designed a modern era shaped helmet from thick canvas to protect motorcycle racers’ heads after regularly treating those with head and brain injuries.
Lastly, “the first” motorcycle helmet could also be attributed to those who first made helmets based on the studies and findings of brain injuries sustained by motorcycle riders by Dr. Hugh Cairns. He was inspired after Lawrence of Arabia died in 1935 from a brain injury sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Putting aside the debate about who designed “the first” motorcycle helmet, the goal of said helmets has always been the same: to minimize or avoid blunt force trauma, penetration of pointed objects, and/or abrasions to the head. Certainly with research and development combined with advances in technology Motorcycle Helmet Effectiveness has come a long way.