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The multifingered human hand serves as a model for anthropomorphic manipulators and prosthetic devices. In order to better guide the design of these devices, a study of the range of motion of human fingers is presented. The role of tendons in the actions of human fingers is modeled and results of experimental studies on the range of motion of fingers in normal humans are presented. Further study of disabled hands illustrates constraints imposed by deficient tendon mechanisms. The basic investigations of normal and disabled hands guide the design of tendon-based actuators for mechanized fingers. The design of a prototype finger actuated by a shape-memory alloy material serving as a tendon is discussed.