Bionic Innovator/Bionic Rock Climber creates the future of Robotic Legs

BY November 2, 2015

In 2014 Hugh Herr was honored as a Smithsonian Institution American Ingenuity Award winner.

His story is one of conquering adversity to create innovations in science/technology, developing bionic limbs that have already revolutionized life for amputees.

Here is his amazing, inspiring, groundbreaking story:

  • Hugh Herr was a prodigy rock climber: by 17 he was acknowledged to be one of the best climbers in the United States.
  • In 1982 in a climb on Mt. Washington, a blizzard trapped he and a fellow climber for three days – both legs below the knees had to be amputated.
  • After months of surgeries Hugh developed specialized prostheses which allowed him to again become an elite level rock climber.
  • Prior to his accident Hugh cared little for academics. Now he completed his undergraduate degree, then a master's degree in mechanical engineering at MIT, followed by a PhD in biophysics from Harvard University.
  • As a postdoctoral fellow at MIT in biomedical devices, he began working on advanced leg prostheses and orthoses, devices that emulate the functionality of the human leg.
  • Today he is head of the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab. He recently established the Center for Extreme Bionics at MIT.
  • Herr has published over 60 peer-reviewed papers in the field of rehabilitation science and is the holder of more than 10 patents related to assistive devices, including those for a computer-controlled artificial knee.
  • He has been recognized by TIME’s “top ten inventions” in 2004 and 2007. Last year (2014) The Smithsonian Institute awarded him an American Ingenuity Award.

Hugh Herr’s work on developing bionic limbs has already revolutionized life for amputees. He is at the forefront of combining the science of biology with technology to develop wearable robotic systems that serve to augment human physical capability.

Hugh will be a speaker at our “Breakthrough” session at the 2016 Imagine Solutions Conference. For information:


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