Hugh Herr, PhD

2018, Houston, Texas

John Thompson History of Medicine Lecturer

Hugh Herr is an American engineer and biophysicist who creates bionic limbs that emulate the function of natural limbs. TIME Magazine coined Herr the “Leader of the Bionic Age” because of his revolutionary work in the emerging field of Biomechatronics—technology that marries human physiology with electromechanics. A double amputee, he is responsible for breakthrough advances in bionic limbs that provide greater mobility and new hope to those with physical disabilities. Herr is a professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab, and co-director of the MIT Center for Extreme Bionics.

Herr has authored and co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts and patents chronicling the science and technology behind his many innovations. Two of Herr’s inventions, a computer-controlled knee prosthesis called the Rheo, and a powered ankle-foot prosthesis called EmPower were named to the list of Top Ten Inventions in the health category by TIME Magazine in 2004 and 2007 respectfully. 

Herr is the founder of BionX Inc., a company that commercializes the EmPower Ankle-Foot Prosthesis, first in a series of products that emulates physiological function through electromechanical replacement, allowing amputees to walk with normal levels of speed and metabolism, as if their legs were biological once again.

Herr has received many accolades, including the 13th Annual Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment; the Prince Salman Award for Disability Research; the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Technology, the 14th Innovator of the Year Award; the 41st Inventor of the Year Award, and the 2016 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research. Herr’s story has been told in a National Geographic film, Ascent: The Story of Hugh Herr, as well as in episodes and articles featured in CNNThe EconomistDiscover, and Nature.

General Scientific Session IV
Wednesday, October 10, 11:47 am–12:15 pm
The New Era of Extreme Bionics