MIT Professor Hugh Herr lost both legs in 1982 when he was just 17 due to severe frostbite after getting caught in a blizzard while attempting a wintertime climb on Mount Washington. Within months of his surgeries, Herr started climbing again. He designed and built his own prosthetic legs and feet so he could climb on rocks or snow. As he experimented, Herr had a tremendous flash of inspiration: prosthetics could do more than mere replacement—he could make himself as tall or short as he liked. With good design, the injured individual could be better than before. This insight has proven just as revolutionary an idea, as have many of his other prosthetic designs. Time magazine has twice named Herr’s prostheses to its top-10 inventions in the health field. His robotic ankle-foot was honored in 2007. The PowerFoot One displayed in the exhibition was manufactured by iWalk, a startup that Herr helped found, and is the first to allow an amputee to walk with a normal gait.
PowerFoot One Prosthetic Foot
Loan from the Biomechatronics Group, MIT Media Laboratory
photo: Michael Cardinali for MIT Museum