2002 Lemelson-MIT Prize Winner
|Photo by Robert Bengtson
With a passion for inventing, Dean Kamen has devoted his career
to enhancing human capabilities through technology and innovation,
and exciting young people about science and engineering. In 2002,
Kamen was awarded the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for these commitments,
particularly his medical technology breakthroughs such as the stair-climbing
Independence™ IBOT™ Mobility System, revealed in 1999.
The IBOT™ is a battery-powered wheelchair built from sensors,
microprocessors and gyroscopes that can climb stairs and stand upright
on two wheels, empowering handicapped people to see and move at
While studying at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1972, Kamen
first ventured into medical technologies to conquer a problem his
brother encountered as a medical student—precise, controlled
drug delivery over long durations. Kamen invented a wearable, programmable
infusion pump that delivered small, accurate doses of medicine,
such as insulin, over extended periods. His portable device enabled
previously confined patients to be mobile and live normal lives.
In 1981, Kamen started DEKA Research & Development Corp., a
core institution for his ideas and research. Among the many inventions
launched by DEKA are a portable peritoneal dialysis machine, developed
in 1993 for Baxter, that enables patients to undergo dialysis in
the comfort of their own homes; the Hydroflex™ Irrigation
Pump, an irrigation pumping system; and an improved flexible stent.
The most recent invention to spring from DEKA is the Segway™
Human Transporter (HT), which Kamen unveiled in 2001. The Segway™
is an electric powered personal transportation machine that moves
by shifts in one's body weight. Kamen hopes that the public will
adopt his self-balancing machine for traveling short distances,
hence reducing pollution and congestion.
Kamen donated his $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize money to his non-profit
organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and
Technology). Established in 1989, FIRST serves to inspire and motivate
young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and
engineering. FIRST conducts a national robotics competition and
has created the FIRST LEGO™ League competitions. Kamen has
additionally created SEE Science Center, an interactive learning
center in Manchester, NH to promote science education.
Born in Long Island, NY in 1951, Kamen holds 150 patents and has
received the Heinz Award in Technology, the Hoover Medal (1995),
the Kilby Award (1994) and the National Medal of Technology presented
by President Clinton (2000).
In 2005 Segway LLC introduced the Segway XT—a modification of Kamen's original design to handle rough terrain with minimal environmental impact.