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Boston Arm


MIT Professor Norbert Wiener broke his hip in 1962. During his recovery, he shared his speculations that servomechanisms could be used to link the brain to an artificial limb. The Massachusetts General Hospital doctors were intrigued. Shortly thereafter, MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor Robert Mann was recruited to provide advice on the design of a small, lightweight power system similar to the ones he had developed for the Sparrow missile. Soon Mann was completely engaged with orthopedic surgeon Melvin Glimcher. In 1968, they demonstrated the "Boston Arm", the first artificial limb that used electrical signals from the brain to control its movement. It took engineers at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company many more years of development to create a viable prosthesis. This display shows one of the earliest experiments and two working prototypes, one developed by EG&G for Liberty Mutual. The research on the control systems for artificial arms by Stephen Jacobsen, Robert Mann's doctoral student, would become the basis for the development of an equally famous prosthesis, the Utah Arm. [text from MIT 150 Exhibition label]

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Related People

Glimcher, Melvin J.
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Edgerton, Germeshausen and Grier, Inc.
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thumbnail Mann, Robert Wellesley
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thumbnail Wiener, Norbert
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Related Subjects

thumbnail Department of Mechanical Engineering
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