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Brånemark enters the national pantheon

by: Frederic Love

America’s most exclusive circle of inventors now includes the father of osseointegration.

Per-Ingvar Brånemark

Per-Ingvar Brånemark discovered how, under carefully controlled conditions, living bone and titanium might be coaxed into becoming all but inseparable.

January 29, 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of the granting of the United States patent for “an implant fixture for tooth prostheses.”

In recognition of the impact of that patent on millions of people around the globe, Per-Ingvar Brånemark has been awarded membership in the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame.

He will be posthumously inducted into this celebrated circle of innovators at a ceremony to be held today in Washington, DC.

Some people call it the Oscars for inventors, but for others, the grand event is more reminiscent of the Nobel Prize awards ceremony. 

Every year, a distinguished group of men and women whose technological innovations have made a significant impact on the world are inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame. It’s an exclusive club that includes the likes of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla—and now includes the late Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark.

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Fitting for an awards ceremony of this stature, Brånemark will be formally inducted at a ceremony today, hosted by “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca, and set against the background of the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The honor being bestowed on Brånemark is, according to the Hall of Fame, “in recognition of scientific achievement that has moved beyond the research lab and made a tangible impact on society.” Barbro Brånemark, Professor Brånemark’s wife and chief surgical nurse, will be accepting the award in Washington on his behalf.

“Naturally, I will be very proud to accept this award for Per-Ingvar, she says. “For decades, we worked extremely close together, and I got to see how he changed the world around him for the better. It’s been an amazing journey—and an amazing life.”

Brånemark not only changed the field of implant technology, but his observation that the human body could tolerate titanium revolutionized the fields of dental, maxillofacial and orthopedic rehabilitation, improving the quality of millions of people’s lives around the world.
— National Inventors’ Hall of Fame

First in Europe and then in America

Back in 2011, the European Patent Office (EPO) presented Professor Brånemark with the organization’s lifetime achievement award for his discovery and development of osseointegration. Brånemark said at the time that—among the hundreds of honorary degrees, prizes and decorations that he had received over the years—it was the award that meant the most to him because it recognized “the importance of scientific innovation in modern society.”

“Induction into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame is a similar sort of acknowledgement,” says Mrs. Brånemark. “This collegial recognition, in a country where he did so much good work—as he shared his insights into osseointegration—would have meant the world to him.”

National Inventors' Hall of Fame

The faces of Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln are featured on the medal that will be presented to Barbro Brånemark on behalf of her late husband and colleague, Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark. Lincoln once famously quipped, “The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” This was certainly true of both Edison and Brånemark.

The word “Osseointegration” summed it up

He made a ground-breaking discovery in the 1950s, coined a word in the 1960s, and by surrounding himself with some of the best minds in this nascent field, Brånemark made osseointegration a clinical reality.

In 1965 he treated his first implant patient. In 1977 he held his first clinical course and—thoroughly documenting his work at every step—established the veracity of his claims in critical academic circles during the 1980s. When the Brånemark System implant patent was issued in the United States in 1991, the door to widespread commercialization of the clinical products sold by Nobel Biocare (then known as Nobelpharma) opened wide.

Related article: The man who made people smile

An inventor, of course, but foremost a humanitarian.

From his first visit to Brazil in 1988, he began carrying out the reconstructive surgery of maxillofacial defects in Bauru in 1992. By the turn of the century, he had established collaboration with the University Sagrado Coração for both dental and maxillofacial rehabilitation; and in 2005, the non-profit P-I Brånemark Institute Bauru was established.

In every aspect of his professional life, Per-Ingvar Brånemark took it upon himself to continuously challenge the status quo, and thus learn more about the world around him.

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