Inspirational Engineers: Hugh Herr

hugh herr

Hugh Herr was informed  this past June that he had been given the Princess of Asturias Award on Scientific and Technical Research 2016. He was one of the favorites to win it and he had already been nominated in 2011. His merit: the development of the most advanced first bionic legs, inspired by the human motion.

Herr uses the prosthetic legs he himself designed. He was only 17 (in 1982 when, during a climbing expedition at the Huntington Ravine (New Hampshire) he had the misfortune of finding himself stuck, lost in the middle of a blizzard and snow storm that made him spend three nights at minus 30ºC.  He was with his partner and climber Jeff Batzer.

After he was rescued, both his legs had to be amputated below the knee due to severe freezing. Tramutatized by one of the volunteers who helped in his rescue’s death, this biophysicist decided to commit his life to the design of prosthetic pieces so that he could climb again, and help other people that, just like him, had lost their limbs.

Herr did not think the robotic prosthetic legs that he had at the beginning were good enough, so he decided to improve them. It was then when he started studying Mechanical Engineering at Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT), he had already graduated in Physics from Millersville University, and after he pursued a PhD on Biomechanics at Harvard University.

First he built wooden and metal pieces, but the current ones are made of silicone, titanium, aluminum, and carbon, have their own batteries, and are programmed using information previously downloaded from a computer.hugh herr robotic legs

Today, 34 years after his extensive study on prosthetic limbs, this mechanical engineer and biophisicist from the US (born in Lancaster, USA, in 1964) runs the Biomechatronics group at the MIT Media Lab, where he creates these revolutionary bionic legs which granted him the Princess of Asturias Award on Scientific and Technical Research. This outstanding engineer will receive his award on Friday 21st Oct.

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