Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
Pouchak, Hilary D
Ossur North America
1.35 cu. ft. : 3 boxes
In 1976, after a waterskiing accident, Van Phillips had his left leg amputated just above the ankle. At the time he was twenty-one years old and a student at Arizona State University studying mass communications and advertising. The accident and his frustration with the prosthetic technology at the time motivated Phillips to switch his studies to prosthetics. He graduated in 1981. Happy to design a prosthetic foot with strength, flexibility, and light weight materials, Phillips began the process of bringing his ideas into reality. During this time his idea of a C-shaped foot was born. Carbon fiber with its excellent strength and flexible properties was cut into a C-shaped foot, with a sole on the bottom and a prosthetic socket above. With this design, weight applied by landing on the heel was converted into energy thereby simulating the spring action of the normal foot and allowing users to run and jump. After trying out his new design, Phillips immediately decided to quit his job, develop his design, and start a new company. Flex-Foot Inc. was formed in 1984 and demand for Phillips innovative prosthetic foot has increased ever since. While the firm was sold in 2000 to Ossur, a company based in Iceland, in 2000, Phillips still owns the patent rights to his invention and continues to contribute his ideas and expertise to research and development projects.
Approximately two hours of a video oral history interview of Van Phillips, inventor of the Flex-Foot and other innovative prosthetic feet, conducted by Katherine Ott and Maggie Dennis, February 27, 2004. In Series 2 there are design drawings and printed materials regarding prosthetic feet by Van Phillips and Hilary D. Pouchak.
Van Phillips Oral History and Papers, 1991-2004, Archives Center, National Museum of American History