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22 August 2012

Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann founded ‘The National Spinal Injuries Centre’ (NSIC) at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury, in 1944 to treat servicemen who had sustained spinal cord injuries in World War II. 

Professor Guttmann began using sport as a rehabilitation method for military personnel and on the 29th July 1948 organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for 16 paralysed men and women to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London.

Possum was founded in 1961 by an engineer called Reginald Maling. Volunteering at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, he encountered a young man who had been injured in a water-skiing accident. Totally paralysed from the neck down, and with very little voice, he could only signal to nurses by blowing on a whistle hung near his mouth.

Maling designed a device which could be operated by sucking or blowing on a mouthpiece, enabling the patient to activate mechanisms for turning on the light or TV; later versions could even operate an electric typewriter. He called his invention Patient Operated Selector Mechanism, or POSM. Based on this, the word Possum – Latin for 'I can' - was chosen as the name for the Company.

Reg Maling received great encouragement from Sir Ludwig Guttman, the then Director of the National Spinal injuries Unit, who suggested that he approach the Polio Research Fund. The POSM research project was founded with aid from the Polio Research Fund.  For the first few years the project was based in the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and after the cessation of the grant from the Polio Research Fund, an independent organisation was founded which moved them to nearby premises leased  by the Bifucated and Tubular Rivet Company Ltd.

Still situated in Aylesbury, Possum's mission is to harness modern technology to empower people with disabilities and increase their independence. This vision is achieved by two means: through a business, Possum Limited, and a charity, the Possum Trust.  

Please view our ‘Electronic Assistive Technology’ page for further information on our life-changing solutions for disabled people.