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Bionics: Biological insight into mechanical design

Dickinson, Michael H. (1999) Bionics: Biological insight into mechanical design. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 96 (25). pp. 14208-14209. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC33951.

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When pressed with an engineering problem, humans often draw guidance and inspiration from the natural world (1). Through the process of evolution, organisms have experimented with form and function for at least 3 billion years before the first human manipulations of stone, bone, and antler. Although we cannot know for sure the extent to which biological models inspired our early ancestors, more recent examples of biomimetic designs are well documented. For example, birds and bats played a central role in one of the more triumphant feats of human engineering, the construction of an airplane. In the 16th century, Leonardo da Vinci sketched designs for gliding and flapping machines based on his anatomical study of birds. More than 300 years later, Otto Lilienthal built and flew gliding machines that were also patterned after birds (2). Sadly, Lilienthal died in one of his own creations, in part because he failed to solve a difficult problem for which animals would eventually provide another critical insight: how to steer and maneuver. The wing warping mechanism that enabled Orville and Wilbur Wright to steer their airplane past the cameras and into the history books is said to have been inspired by watching buzzards soar near their Ohio home (3).

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Dickinson, Michael H.0000-0002-8587-9936
Additional Information:Copyright © 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences From the Academy This paper is a summary of a session presented at the fifth annual German-American Frontiers of Science symposium, held June 10–13, 1999, at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Potsdam, Germany.
Issue or Number:25
PubMed Central ID:PMC33951
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:DICpnas99
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:732
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:21 Sep 2005
Last Modified:02 Oct 2019 22:36

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