Smithsonian Collects Groundbreaking Surgical Device

THINK Surgical Donates Prototype of ROBODOC Hip and Knee Replacement Surgical Robot
November 15, 2016

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History today acquired a 1989 prototype of ROBODOC, a groundbreaking orthopedic surgical device created for hip and knee replacement surgeries. THINK Surgical Inc. of Fremont, Calif., also donated approximately 6 cubic feet of archival material.

IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center and researchers at the University of California, Davis began the collaborative development of an innovative system for total hip arthroplasty in 1986 to create a more precise device for joint-replacement procedures.  ROBODOC became the first surgical robot to perform procedures in the United States in 1992. Performing total hip arthroplasty by hand is not always precise, and there is a possibility that the bone may splinter. The ROBODOC helps prevent these complications through its 3-D image-directed preoperative planning, allowing the computer-guided robot to accurately execute the surgeon’s plan.

The prototype will become part of the museum’s permanent Science and Medicine collections. There are currently no plans for a display.

“We are grateful to be able to include ROBODOC and related materials to the museum’s permanent collections,” said John Gray, the museum’s director. “This donation supports our curators’ goal to explore innovative medical robotics in the advancing field of precision technology and engineering and to document the early history of medial robotics.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the ROBODOC in 1998. Since then, it has been used in more than 28,000 procedures worldwide.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is continuing to renovate its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on democracy and culture. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

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