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Bionics

BIONICS

BIONICS, broadly defined, is the application of the understanding of biological functions to solving engineering problems. Studies of how birds fly, for example, have been used to design aircraft. Research in bionics led to the development of functional aids for humans. In 1928 Philip Drinker and Louis A. Shaw of the Harvard School of Public Health designed the iron lung to allow poliomyelitis patients to breathe. Denton Cooley in 1969 and Robert Jarvik in 1982 and 1984 devised artificial hearts for temporary use. Bionics also contributed to the designs of prostheses. The 1961 Nobel Prize winner for physiology or medicine, Georg von Békésy, discovered the mechanisms of stimulation of the inner ear, which enabled the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company to develop the cochlear implant in 1973, bringing varying degrees of hearing to the totally deaf. In the late 1980s, U.S. scientists studied the neural systems in order to aid paralysis victims, persons with artificial limbs, and the blind. Kendall D. Wise and David J. Edell experimented with devices that could detect neural commands and transform them into electronic commands to produce movement in paralyzed limbs. In the early 1990s Robert Birge of Syracuse University experimented with protein extracted from a saltwater bacterium to develop an artificial eye, and Carver Mead at the California Institute of Technology worked on producing an all-electronic silicon retina. Research on mechanical prostheses continued in the late 1990s, despite advances in the discovery of cloning, which focused scientific attention on the genetic replication of human organs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Flam, Faye. "Getting an Eyeful of Biomolecules." Science 255, no. 5042 (17 January 1992): 289.

Souhrada, Laura. "Bionic Prostheses Restore Neurological Activity." Hospitals (5 July 1989).

Zorpette, Glenn, and Carol Ezzell, eds. "Your Bionic Future." Scientific American 10, no. 3 (September 1999). Special issue.

Ruth RoyHarris/a. r.

See alsoHeart Implants ; Medicine and Surgery ; Robotics ; Transplants and Organ Donation .

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bionics

bionics, the study of living systems with the intention of applying their principles to the design of engineering systems. Drawing on interdisciplinary research in the mechanical and life sciences, bionics has been used to develop audiovisual equipment based on human eye and ear function, to design air and naval craft patterned after the biological structure of birds and fish, and to incorporate principles of the human neurological system in data-processing systems. Another application has been the development of experimental artificial limbs that can be controlled by a person's thoughts and retinal implants consisting of an electrode array that receives visual data from an external camera.

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bionics

bi·on·ics / bīˈäniks/ • pl. n. [treated as sing.] the study of mechanical systems that function like living organisms or parts of living organisms.

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bionics

bionics (by-on-iks) n. the science of mechanical or electronic systems that function in the same way as, or have characteristics of, living systems. Compare cybernetics.
bionic adj.

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