Assistive Tech Pioneer Glimcher Dies

The field of assistive technology recently lost one of its most distinguished pioneers. Melvin J. Glimcher, who died on May 12, was one of the developers of the “Boston Arm,” the first bio-mechanical prosthetic. When it was revealed in 1968, at a time when prosthetics had barely advanced beyond peg legs, it was greeted with the same future shock amazement as the moon landing a year later.

Glimcher, whom the Marines considered “too smart” for combat, was part of a team that included researchers from MIT, Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the insurance company Liberty Mutual. According to Boston Magazine, Liberty Mutual’s interest was more fiscal than humanitarian: Developing a prosthetic that was useful, rather than merely cosmetic, beat paying long-term disability insurance.

Whatever the motive, the device became the forerunner of a new way of thinking about prosthetics that has led to today’s current laboratory research on neural implants to control prosthetic limbs and potential breakthroughs.

One way to know you’ve lived a good life is if your obituary is a great read. Glimcher’s is, and with gratitude, we highly recommend it.