History

100 years of mobility for people

It all began in 1919 with the founding of a startup by Otto Bock – but through the intervening years, it has fundamentally changed the field of orthopaedic technology.

Fourth generation of family businesses

From startup to global market leader

In 1919, Otto Bock founded Orthopädische Industrie GmbH – a bona-fide startup in today’s terms – in the Kreuzberg neighbourhood of Berlin. By introducing the fabrication of components for prostheses, the company succeeded in quickly and reliably treating the numerous victims who had returned from World War I.

Due to political unrest in Berlin, Otto Bock relocated the young company to his hometown, Königsee in Thuringia, the same year it was founded. Over the next 30 years or so, the company workforce grew to more than 600 employees.

Schwarz-weiß-Foto von Otto Bock mit Hut und Marie Bock
Otto Bock and his wife, Maria

German separation: both an end and a beginning

During the period of Soviet occupation, the family decided to establish another location as close as possible to Königsee but in the neighbouring British zone for strategic reasons. The aim was to ensure ongoing deliveries to customers from this location by trading materials for finished products. Dr Max Näder was the founder of what was the “branch” at the time and is now the company headquarters. Son-in-law to Otto Bock, Dr Näder and his wife Maria Näder started in 1947 with practically nothing and built up the location in Duderstadt.

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Otto Bock and Dr Max Näder
Northern branch in Duderstadt
Fabricating prostheses in Duderstadt
Copy machine for wood components
Opening of the “100 years of Ottobock” exhibition at Kunsthalle HGN in Duderstadt
Ceremony with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel
Presentation of the Heine-Hessing medal by the German Association for Orthopaedic Technology to Professor Hans Georg Näder
Publication of the book “Futuring Human Mobility” by Professor Hans Georg Näder
Celebration of the “Eichsfeld Festival” in downtown Duderstadt
Ceremony in Königsee with Wolfgang Tiefensee, Thuringian Minister of Economics, Science and the Digital Society
“Futuring Human Mobility” photo exhibition in Göttingen
Inauguration of the Otto-Bock-Straße in Duderstadt

The Königsee location is expropriated

After what was probably the most severe misfortune in the company’s history, the expropriation of the Königsee site without compensation, the family also had to rebuild production in Duderstadt from the ground up together with a group of dedicated employees.

During the Cold War, the family took first steps towards internationalising the company. They secured the company’s future by establishing multiple locations around the globe. In 1958 Dr Max Näder founded the first Ottobock foreign subsidiary in Minneapolis in the US.

Technological milestones

Ground-breaking technology

Technological milestones

Jüpa knee

Following a somewhat difficult start, the Jüpa knee – which featured a brake mechanism and offered a high level of stance stability – brought a business breakthrough in 1949. This product, together with an innovative balance device and two additional prosthetic alignment apparatuses, were in high demand on the American market. Max Näder exported the first 500 units of the Jüpa knee to the US in 1955.

Paralympic Games

The beginning of a decades-long partnership

Four O&P professionals from Australia started the ball rolling when they provided technical assistance to athletes at the Summer Paralympic Games in Seoul 1988. This laid the foundation for a commitment that has now lasted more than three decades, and today is known under the motto “Passion for Paralympics”. Ottobock has been attending and supporting the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games with their technical service ever since.

Paralympischer Athlet, der in einem gut besuchten Sportstadion steht und sein Prothesenbein neben sein amputiertes Bein hält.
Passion for Paralympics
Growth through globalisation and internationalisation

A turning point in the company's history

The fall of the Berlin Wall was another turning point in Ottobock’s history. This enabled the company to repurchase its production location in Königsee, where cutting-edge wheelchairs are now produced. The group’s international growth also continued around the globe.

A forward-looking company

In 1990, Dr Max Näder handed over management to his son Professor Hans Georg Näder. The entrepreneur took a dynamic approach to expanding the global network, driving research and development as well as marketing and sales. He was appointed Honorary Professor of the PFH Private University of Applied Sciences in Göttingen in 2005.

Trendsetting innovations

Microprocessors in orthopaedic technology

Technological milestones

C-Leg

Hans Georg Näder recognised the potential of a groundbreaking innovation – a computerised (C) leg designed by Canadian Kelly James – and acquired the patent. After five years of development work, he was able to present the C-Leg, the world’s first microprocessor-controlled knee joint, at the Prosthetics World Congress in Nuremberg. The C-Leg opened up a new dimension in walking in 1997.

Additional topics

Values and culture

People first

Freedom of movement, quality of life and independence: this is what we strive for every day at Ottobock – human, reliable and inventive!

Learn more
Digitalisation

The future of orthopaedic technology


Here’s how apps, smart sensors, microprocessors, 3D printers and 3D scanners help people with and without disabilities today: discover innovations from Ottobock.

Learn more
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