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Memorial Tributes, Volume 12
applications of technology to helping people with disabilities. In collaboration with John Kenneth Dupress, the blind veteran, and others, Mann inaugurated the Sensory Aids Evaluation and Development Project in 1964. English-to-Braille computer translation systems, the award-winning MIT Braille Embosser, and electronic travel aids for the blind resulted from that project.
Dr. Mann also applied his knowledge of computer-aided design—another area in which he was a pioneer—to his experience with powering rocket systems and his commitment to helping people with disabilities. His Boston Arm was the first artificial limb to be controlled by a combination of biology and technology. Through studies of skeletal joints and osteoarthritis, together with related computer-aided imagery, he explicated the biomechanical role of cartilage and made the only measurements of pressures on and in cartilage in vivo in the human hip. He designed a caliper-like sizing device to ensure that the replacement ball used in hip surgery fit perfectly. While teaching and mentoring graduate students at MIT, Robert Mann, along with Woodie C. Flowers (then a graduate student, now Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering) was also involved in the development of the MIT Knee.
Professor Mann’s service to MIT was as innovative as his research on biomechanics. He was a devoted teacher, advisor for more than 300 theses at MIT, and nurturer of MIT’s sense of community. He transformed the design curriculum in mechanical engineering in the 1960s when he introduced project-oriented courses that involved students in the entire design process. He was president of the Association of Alumni and Alumnae of MIT from 1983 to1984, only the second faculty member to hold that position in the twentieth century, and he was president of the Class of 1950 for 50 years. In recognition of his contributions to MIT, the institute awarded him two endowed chairs, and in 1983–1984, the James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award, which was established to “recognize extraordinary professional accomplishments of full-time members of the MIT faculty.” He also received the Bronze