Hugh Herr, PhD, associate professor of media arts and sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been given Spain’s 2016 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research. The Princess of Asturias Awards are intended to reward scientific, technical, cultural, social, and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions, or groups of individuals or institutions. Specifically, the award in the technical and scientific research category is conferred on those “whose research findings and/or inventions represent an outstanding contribution to the progress and welfare of humanity in the fields of mathematics, astronomy and astrophysics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, medical sciences, earth and space sciences, and technological sciences, including those disciplines corresponding to each of these fields and their related techniques,” according to the Princess of Asturias Foundation.
“Hugh Herr received this award because he is the leader of the bionic age,” Pedro Miguel Echenique Landiribar, the jury president, told euronews. “His prosthetics mimic the functions of real limbs and have helped many.”
Herr’s candidature was put forward by Robert Langer, PhD, who was one of five co-winners of the 2008 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research. In the candidature, Langer provided a brief biography of Herr and detailed his achievements, as summarized below:
Herr, who has bilateral transtibial amputations due to suffering frostbite during an ice climbing trip when he was 17 years old, currently heads the Biomechatronic Group at the MIT Media Lab. Herr’s research group has developed adaptive knee prostheses for individuals with transfemoral amputations and orthoses for patients suffering from foot drop and pathologies caused by cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis. He has also designed his own bionic legs, special prostheses that have allowed him to continue climbing, and the world’s first bionic foot and calf system called the BiOM; founded BiOM (formerly iWalk), Bedford, Massachusetts. He has also built elastic shoes that increase aerobic endurance in walking and running. Holder or coholder of more than 70 patents, Herr has given numerous lectures at international conferences and forums, is associate editor of the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, and sits on the editorial board of other scientific publications.
Princess of Asturias Awards winners receive a Joan Miró sculpture, representing and symbolizing the awards; a cash prize of €50,000, a diploma, and an insignia. The awards will be presented in the fall at a ceremony presided over by TM The King and Queen of Spain.