Prosthetic & Orthotic Information Resource

Main Page

Historical Prosthesis

Knight of the Iron Hand
According to German History, was fitted with an artificial arm that had gears and levers that moved his metal fingers. According to Legend, he became an even more feroicious fighter with his prosthesis.

Improved Prosthesis
Prosthetic devices were first developed centuries ago and originally were simply replacements for missing limbs. They have since been greatly improved and now they help people have extremely active lives. These improvements have been made possible because of new surgical techniques, the advancement of components for making prosthetics, creative engineering ideas and as many things, 'demand'.

egyptian prosthetic toe

Ancient Prosthetics

Prosthesis in time

Prosthetics (pronounced prahs-theh-tiks) is the branch of medicine that deals with the replacement of missing body parts with man-made components. Prosthesis (pronounced prahs-thee-sis) is the general term for the artificial parts themselves that replace a massing body part usually due to disease or injury and typically surgically removed. In some cases, such where a person might be born missing a limb, Prosthesis may be built to allow for some normalcy. Prosthetic devices have a long history, ranging from an ancient wooden foot to more recent designs that use battery power and new lightweight, composite materials making prostheses lighter, better, stronger, and easier to use.

A History of Prosthetics & Prosthetic Devices

The known history of the prosthesis, designing and making prosthetics several hundred years, this observation due to evidence of ancient devices having been found that were made to replace a missing lower leg or even toes. The Prosthetic legs consisted of metal plates hammered to fit a wooden core, and then strapped to the amputee's stump. These very early prostheses were usually made by blacksmiths, armor makers, and other artisans who were skilled at using metal, wood, and leather.

Recent Prosthetic Devices

One of the earliest written references to prosthetics is in a book published in France in 1579. French surgeon Ambroise Paré (1510-1590) published his complete works, including discussion of the artificial limbs he fitted on his amputees. Ambroise Paré, a military surgeon, had removed several damaged arms and legs, and in 1529, began designing and building artificial limbs to help the soldiers who had been injured as well as other people who had suffered amputation due to diabetes and disease.
In 1863, Dubois L Parmelee of New York City made an improvement to the attachment of artificial limbs by fastening a body socket to the limb with atmospheric pressure. In 1898, Dr. Vanghetti invented an artificial limb that could move with through muscle contraction.

Prosthetics date back to more than 4500 years ago

Contrary to what was previously thought, prosthetic care dates back to 2750-2625 B.C. during the fifth Egyptian Dynasty. It was initially thought that the Egyptians only created synthetic body parts for the dead in order to create a complete body for the journey into the afterlife; that school of thought has been revisited and might get rewritten. Archaeologists have unearthed what is thought to be the oldest known prosthetic device to be covered beneath Egyptian sand. In late 2000, researchers studying an Egyptian mummy dated to the period between 1565 and 740 B.C. have found direct evidence that the Egyptians practiced in prosthetic surgery. The toe was made from cartonnage - a composite material ( layers of linen or papyrus ) impregnated by animal glue and gesso (for binding and setting). The overall appearance of the ancient prosthesis is similar to that of a modern day counterpart. The toe is smooth and has a tan-colored coating which obscures the texture of the underlying fabric. X-ray diffraction analysis of the coating suggests that it is composed of a mixture of calcite, dolomite, halite and quartz.