The invention of the artificial limbs was a major milestone in the medical world. Artificial limbs work so effectively and look so convincing, people might not even notice someone wearing one. Prosthesis is a device used to replace a lost limb. In addition to this, prosthesis can result in cosmetic improvements for the patient and build self-confidence. After years of research, science and technology have combined to make prosthetic limbs more efficient, comfortable, and lifelike than ever before.
"The first artificial limbs were stiff and did not have joints that bent like real arms, hands, or legs" (Woods 40). The limbs were also heavy and uncomfortable. This made people only able to wear them for a short period of time. They usually were just a leather cup attached to a wooden peg. "The cup would be fitted over the stump, and attached by straps. The straps could easily come undone, and the limb would fall off" (Woods 40) . Artificial limbs since this time have improved greatly.
In medieval times, "leg prosthesis was simply a bend at the knee with an artificial foot to fit in the stirrup"(Murphy 11). This was so the knight could sit comfortably in his saddle. It was useless in battle though, so the knight had to detach it before fighting. For amputated arms and hands, a crude hook was used. It did not have any movement skills, but it gave the wearer more freedom.
In 1508, the German knight, Gotz von Berlicichingen, had his right arm amputated. His prosthetic arm was considered a miracle in his time. It looked like an iron glove and was strapped to the stump of the forearm with leather straps. With the help of gearwheels, the fingers could be revolved and fixed at a certain position. This allowed the knight to hold his sword and carry out his profession.
In 1529, Ambroise Pare introduced amputation to the medical community. Pare was born in an era where life around him was a never-ending series of small battles. Those wars were being waged with a new weapon: firearms. Firearms caused the death of many soldiers, which is what inspired Pare to become a barber-surgeon. It was during the siege of Turin (1536-1537) that Pare made his first medical discovery. Gunshot wounds, a new medical condition that was thought to be poisonous, could be improved with a simple dressing and soothing ointment. This was done instead of the usual routine treatment of cauterization with boiling water. His next contribution to medicine was the idea of tying off blood vessels to prevent uncontrollable bleeding in amputations. He then designed a number of artificial limbs as well as an artificial eye. Pare's ideas paved the way for many other improvements in surgery. For example, in 1696, inspired by Pare's ideas, "Peiter Andriannszoon developed the first non-locking prosthetic limb for below the knee. This is the basis for the current joint and corset prosthesis"(The History of Prosthetic Devices 2).
Britain's Marquis of Anglesea lost a leg in the battle of Waterloo, and he wanted something better than a peg leg. He approached James Potts, a skilled London craftsman with a reputation for making better than average wooden legs. This caused James Potts to invent the first truly flexible artificial leg. He did this by making a hinged steel knee, an ankle joint, and a "toe lift" mechanism. "As the knee bent to walk, artificial tendons running down the hollow center of the lower leg, contracted to lift the front of the wooden foot" (Murphy 25).
In 1839, William Selpho, one of James Potts's apprentices, inserted a rubber plate to soften the impact of walking. He also added a rubber sole to improve traction on wet surfaces. One of Selpho's early clients was Dr. Benjamin Palmer of Philadelphia. After wearing Potts's leg for sometime, he decided to make some improvements of his own. He came up with a wooden leg that had Potts's "toe lift" and Selpho's shock absorbers. It had a greater springiness in its step. It also had a...
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