Prosthetics Pioneer Dies

Melvin Glimcher, inventor of the prosthetic “Boston Arm,” which moves in response to electrical signals from the wearer, has passed away at age 88.

By | June 3, 2014

HARVARD, STEPHANIE MITCHELLMelvin Glimcher, the orthopedic surgeon who invented an arm prosthetic that could be controlled with neural signals from nerves in the remaining stump and who uncovered critical details about proteins involved in bone formation, died last month (May 12). He was 88.

Glimcher was the first tenured chair of orthopedic surgery at Harvard, a position he held since 1964. An MD with an engineering background, he was able to bring insights from both disciplines to his research, which included studying human gait, as well as bone genetics and formation.

As a young recruit in the US Marines Corp, Glimcher studied mechanical engineering and physics at Duke University and Purdue University. He went on to study medicine at Harvard and later studied biochemistry, biophysics and engineering as a PhD student at MIT. Although he completed the training requirements, he chose not to get a PhD.

At Harvard, Glimcher’s daughter Laurie followed in his footsteps, earning a named chair in immunology, making them the first father and daughter to hold endowed professorships at Harvard Medical School.

“He understood that from very early on when none of the rest of us did,” Eric Radin, who studies joints at Tufts University told The New York Times, calling Glimcher “an intellectual giant.”

Glimcher is survived by three daughters.

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