Van Phillips


1954 –


Who is Van Phillips?

Van Phillips is an American inventor of prosthetics. He is known for the Flex-Foot brand of artificial foot and limbs that he created, and for his charity work for amputees. An amputee himself, having lost a leg below the knee at age 21, Phillips was motivated by the limitations of then-existing artificial limbs to attend the Northwestern University Medical School Prosthetic-Orthotic Center. After graduation, he worked as a biomedical design engineer at the University of Utah before starting his own company, Flex-Foot Incorporated in 1984.

Phillips ultimately created a workable artificial foot made from carbon graphite. Unlike all previous prostheses, it stored kinetic energy from the wearer's steps as potential energy, like a spring, allowing the wearer to run and jump. A prosthetic foot that he created, the Flex-Foot Cheetah, is used by double-amputee and Paralympics gold-medalist Oscar Pistorius, and about 90 percent of Paralympics participants use a variation of the original Flex-Foot design, as well as thousands of people around the world. Phillips sold Flex-Foot to Ossur in 2000, which continues to manufacture the artificial foot.

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  • Northwestern University

on July 23, 2013


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