Who Invented Wheelchair

Who Invented Wheelchair

A wheelchair is nothing less than a blessing for individuals dealing with disability due to medical problems or injury. This is probably one of the best inventions of science. In the past, any individual unable to walk was confined to a bed. They had to live the rest of life in bed

But the wheelchair invention helps them enjoy life equally like any other normal individual. They allow them to participate in every life activity related to their job, traveling, sports, etc. 

You must probably be thinking like me, who is behind this great invention and when was it first appeared? In this article, we will learn who invented the wheelchair. Continue reading till the end. 

Who Invented Wheelchair

We can’t tell who invented the wheelchair because its history is traced back to ancient civilizations. The modern wheelchair with advanced technology comes after a hundred years of gradual evaluation. 

We collected data from the past with authentic information on its invention, which reveals when it first and how it keeps advancing gradually year after year. 

The earliest known depiction of a furniture-type chair with wheels from stone carving in China since the 6th century AD. The carving depicts a person sitting on a chair with wheels. It also reveals that another person is pulling the chair. So, the Chinese were the first to use wheelbarrow chairs. They use it to transfer disabled people and heavy objects. 

Chinese were the first to use wheelbarrows chair.

In Europe, eventually, the same designed wheelchair was developed by an unknown person for the King Philip II of Spain in the 16th century. The king, who suffered from gout, used a custom-made wheelchair that his servants pushed.

Who Invented Wheelchair
Who Invented Wheelchair 1

The wheelchair features small wheels, attaching each leg of the chair. It also had an adjustable back, armrests, and a platform for legs. The design has shortcomings, like the need to be propelled by another person. However, this design somehow looked like a modern-day wheelchair. 

The first properly self-propelled wheelchair was designed in 1655 by Stephen Farfler at the age of 22 years.

The maker was a paraplegic watchmaker of Nuremberg, Germany, who broke his back in childhood. It had three wheels and used cranks and cogwheels for self-propelling. The cranks on the front wheels made it look like a handbike. 

Following Farfler’s design, John Dawson invented an invalid carriage or Bath Chair in 1760. This design has sold for over 40 years. At the start of the 18th century, advancements took place, and wheelchairs with lightweight and resemblance to today’s chairs, started designing. 

In the 19th century, the first wheelchair with a self-propelling mechanism was invented by John Joseph Merlin, a Belgian inventor. Merlin’s wheelchair had a gear mechanism that allowed the user to move the chair by turning a hand crank.

Back in the 1800s, an inventor named John Joseph Merlin created the first wheelchair that could move by itself.

Modern Wheelchair

A notable inventor of the wheelchair was Harry Jennings, an engineer who designed the first lightweight, folding wheelchair in 1933. Jennings was inspired to invent the chair when he saw his friend, Herbert Everest, who broke his back in mining work.

In the following decades, various advancements were made in wheelchair technology, including lightweight materials, improved cushioning, and electric motors. 

Reading Suggestion: How does electric wheelchair works

What was the First Wheelchair Called

There was no specific name for the wheelchair earlier when it was first designed as a mobility aid for disabled individuals and for carrying heavy objects.

However, in 1760, the wheelchair was designed and named an invalid carriage or Bath Chair. Its design has a resemblance to modern-day’s wheelchairs. 

Wheelchair Advancement

Wheelchair keeps getting advanced over the years. Initially, it was made with wood and featured four wheels. It had to push by another person. Those wheelchairs were heavy-weight and chunky. 

But now, the wheelchair is lightweight and made up of metal. They can easily fold and store in small spaces. Moreover, technology has made them easy to operate with just hands without using any external force. 

Today, wheelchairs come in various designs and styles, from manual to power-assisted, and are essential for people with mobility impairments.


However, it is unclear who was the exact inventor of the wheelchair, and its history can be traced back to ancient times.