We often associate the first prosthetic devices with those developed by the French barber surgeon, Ambroise Paré in the 16th century. However, prostheses pre-date even Pare’s developments and hark back to as early as ancient Egypt. Throughout history, prostheses have served their purpose for form, function, and identity. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most critical developments over the centuries, surprising innovations, and plenty of interesting examples.
The Earliest Prosthetic Devices
You might be surprised to learn that the first known prosthetic body part was a toe from Ancient Egypt. This prosthetic device was designed to be functional rather than merely for aesthetic purposes. The toe, made from leather and wood, was created around 3,000 years ago and is believed to have belonged to the daughter of a high priest.
The Roman Capula leg is another famous early prosthetic device. The artificial leg dates back to 300 BC. The leg was made of bronze and iron with wood at its core.
Form Meets Function
Prosthetic devices did not change much until the Renaissance. Gotz von Berlichingen, a German mercenary, lost his right arm in the Battle of Landshut. An armorer designed prosthetic hands for him that allowed him to grasp and hold objects.
During the early 1500s, Ambroise Paré changed the course of prosthetic devices. He developed hinged prosthetic hands, prosthetic legs with knee joints, and more effective ways of attaching devices to residual limbs.
The aftermath of the Civil War resulted in a greater need for prosthetic devices. Perhaps most famously, a Confederate soldier and amputee, James Hanger, invented a new type of prosthetic leg with hinged joints at the knee and ankles called the Hanger Limb.
Prosthetic devices continued to be made of leather and wood throughout World War I and World War II. These materials were durable and strong but also quite heavy and tedious to maintain.
In the 1970s, more and more prosthetic devices were made from plastic, resin, laminate, and polycarbonate to provide a lighter, more comfortable fit. Today’s prosthetic devices have a come a long way with the help of biometrics, microprocessors, 3d printers, and carbon fiber. Function and form have truly united to ensure that prosthetic device wearers can enjoy the lifestyle they desire and deserve.
At Metro Prosthetics, we’re proud of our own history and commitment to helping people regain independence since 1977. To find out more about our commitment to high-quality service, connect with us today.