Born in 1951, Dean Kamen is an inventor an entrepreneur from New Hampshire. He holds more than 440 patents. Many of his inventions are for medical devices, although he is probably best known as the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, a two-wheeled scooter which works with the balance of the rider. Leaning forward makes the Segway go faster, while leaning back will slow it down.
The jury is out on whether the Segway is a viable transport form for the future, but Kamen’s medical inventions have transformed patient care the world over. Before graduation, he invented the first wearable infusion pump, which was soon used in chemotherapy, the treatment and care of premature babies, and the treatment of hormonal problems such as diabetes, thyroid malfunction and other glandular problems. Some years later, he invented the first insulin pump for use by diabetics.
Kamen invented the Home Choice Automated Peritonial Dialysis system, which allowed renal patients to conduct dialysis at home, monitored with the aid of special software and a data card. Home Choice is small enough to be portable – not much bigger than a shoe box – meaning that dialysis patients have more freedom than ever before. They can travel with the machine, and the software and data card ensure that the consultant physician can monitor the treatment remotely.
The Crown Stent which Kamen developed for Johnson & Johnson was used in heart surgery on Dick Cheney, former Vice President of the USA. Many experts say it is a significant technological improvement on previous stents, as it allows for a quicker and more precise insertion of the device, thus lessening the risk of complications for the patient.
Perhaps the most quirky of Kamen’s inventions is the iBOT, a sort of cross between a wheelchair and a Transformer – you know, those ‘Robots in disguise’ cartoon characters. It’s a self-balancing wheelchair which can climb stairs and kerbs, ride over rough terrain and lift up the passenger to a standing position. If you were thinking of getting one, though, you’re too late – it was discontinued due to the cost. $26,000 is a lot of money for a wheelchair – even one that climbs stairs.
Another of Kamen’s inventions is a prosthetic arm – nicknamed the ‘Luke Arm’ after Luke Skywalker of ‘Star Wars’ fame. Unlike previous prosthetics, the robotic Luke Arm – or DEKA Arm, to give it it’s proper title – can grip firmly and also be raised above the head. It’s the nearest thing so far to a real arm.
Dean Kamen has made a significant contribution to medical science with his inventions. Find out more about his work and continuing research and development here.