In August 1998 the world’s first bionic arm was fitted to Campbell Aird at the Princess Margaret Rose Hospital. The arm, the first to have a powered shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers, was controlled by electronic micro-sensors (and presumably a bit of witchcraft) that sent pulses to the arm. At 1.8kg, the metal and plastic creation was lighter than a natural arm and much easier to use than the pneumatic ones that preceded it. Aird used the EMAS for 18 months after the initial fitting, continuing to work regularly with the team on adapting the EMAS for everyday use.
Above: The Edinburgh Modular Arm System worn by Campbell Aird.
Aird lost his arm to muscular cancer in 1982 at the age of 31 and decided that the whole taking things easy route wasn’t for him, so agreed to take part in the EMAS project. Though there were initial teething problems to resolve when the arm was first fitted, such as the arm sticking in the upright position, making for a bit of an awkward shopping trip one day. However, the issues were resolved, and fast.
Aird appeared in documentaries about his bionic arm, praising Gow and the team for their pioneering work and the way it changed his life. He commented "For the first time in 16 years I recently reached above my head to pick a book off a shelf. It was a great moment for me." Though not content with being able to reach the top shelf, he learned to fly in 1999 (although admittedly not using the EMAS). Oh, and he also went on to win 14 Clay Pigeon Shooting Trophies and raised money for several charities. He windsurfed across the Forth and the English Channel once. Seriously. This guy.