Who Invented The Wheelchair?

History of the wheelchair, the development over time of wheelchairs

In China, during the second century BC, there are records of wheeled chairs being used to transport both disabled people and products, and by 525 AD they invented the first wheelchair ever made to specifically transport disabled people. It was not until 1595 that an unknown designer made the first wheelchair in Europe for King Phillip II of Spain. This wheelchair had small wheels attached to each leg, an adjustable back, and a platform for the King’s legs. A servant would have pushed this chair.

The person who created the first wheelchair that could be self-propelled was a twenty-two-year-old paraplegic German watchmaker, Stephan Farffler, in 1655. This chair functioned like a modern handbike. In 1783, John Dawson invented the invalid carriage or Bath chair, which had two large wheels and one small one.

However, although it outsold all other wheelchairs for over 40-years, its weight meant it had to be pushed or pulled by a horse or donkey. By the 1800s, wheelchairs were becoming lighter and looking more like the ones we know today.

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The prototype of our modern wheelchairs was designed by two mechanical engineers Harry C. Jennings, Sr. and Herbert Everest, 1933. Everest,had broken his back in a mining accident and was himself disabled. They came up with the first folding and portable wheelchair which was made of lightweight steel. Their “X-brace” design is still used today and they became the first mass producers of wheelchairs ever.

Christopher Jon Olsen, an American inventor designed and made the Universal wheelchair. He created the first wheelchair which was omnidirectional, able to climb steps, capable of passing over all kinds of terrain, and with an adjustable centre of gravity. He took part in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2006 where he won a $10,000 prize which allowed him to refine and develop his revolutionary wheelchair. He co-founded NuEra Mobility Inc, who will begin production of his patented design wheelchair soon.

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