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Van Philips, Prosthetic Leg Inventor

Coming up with a new idea for artificial limbs isn’t easy. Limb design changed very little during the past 200 years until Van Phillips set off a period of intense experimentation and change in the 1980s with his sprinter’s leg. Phillips’s innovative design was modeled after the leg of the cheetah, the fastest animal on the planet.

Photograph of Van Philips running on beach
Learn more about Van Phillips, inventor of the Flex-Foot.

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Excerpts from NIKE promotional film, ca.1979

Nike was at the forefront of running shoe innovation in the 1970s, introducing many of features that runners now take for granted, such as nylon uppers and cushioned mid-soles. This Nike advertisement (ca. 1979), extolling the virtues of a running shoe company “founded by athletes,” is part of the Nike Advertising Collection in the Archives Center at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This video features two minutes of excerpts taken from the original six minute commercial.

Photograph of Nike shoe on running track
Excerpts from Nike promotional film, ca. 1979.

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Robert Jarvik

Dr. Robert Jarvik's name is synonymous with artificial hearts. His work made headlines in the early 1980s and he continues today to invent medical devices to help those with heart disease. Rarely interviewed, he spoke at the Smithsonian about his career and answered questions from National Public Radio's Michele Norris.

Photograph of Dr. Robert Jarvik
Dr. Robert Jarvik, artificial heart pioneer



Wilson Greatbatch

Dr. Wilson Greatbatch speaks from the heart about inventing the implantable cardiac pacemaker. He spoke to middle school students at the National Museum of American History on October 8, 1996.

Photograph of Dr. Wilson Greatbatch
Learn more about Dr. Wilson Greatbatch, inventor of the implantable cardiac pacemaker.



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