Fun Facts and The History of The Prosthetic Leg
The history of the prosthetic leg is a long, story-filled evolution. From wooden peg legs, to today’s perfectly casted, functional prosthetics, it’s very clear that the prosthetic field has come very far. To truly celebrate and appreciate the evolution of the prosthetic leg, let’s go back in time to see the fascinating history of where it all started.
The Egyptians believed that after death, they would be judged to determine whether they can assume a position in eternity, or be consumed by their own greed. One of the factors that was believe to be judged was the individual’s wholeness. This meant that missing a limb could affect the deceased in the afterlife. Egyptians artificial limbs were made from fiber, and were designed to physically replace the missing limb, rather than functioning.
The Capula Leg
The Capula leg is a prosthetic leg that was found in a grave in Capula, Italy. The leg dates back to 300 B.C. The leg was crafted by the Egyptians from bronze and steel, and fitted with a wooden core. This is the oldest surviving leg prosthesis.
The Dark Ages
The dark ages, 500–1100, showed very little advancement is prosthetics. Aside from those wounded in battle, only the wealthy could afford prosthetic limbs. Most prosthetics during this time were made only to hide injuries that occurred during battles.
During the Renaissance period, Ambroise Paré became known as the Father of The Modern Prosthetic leg. He was the official royal surgeon for four French kings. He used his understanding of anatomy to develop functionable prosthetic limbs for all parts of the body. Ambroise Pare was the first to develop an above-knee prosthetic that had an adjustable harness and a hinge-knee with lock control, both of which are still used today.
During this time period, many inventors continued to advance the science of the prosthetic leg, due to the advances Ambroise Pare had made. During this time, Pieter Verduyn, a Dutch surgeon, invented a non locking below-knee prosthetic. In 1800, James Potts invented an above-knee prosthetic that had a calf and thigh socket made of wood, and a flexible foot attached with catgut tendons to a steel knee joint. This design was not only more advanced, but more pleasing to look at. In 1839 this design made its way to America, where it became the standard leading up to the Civil War
American Civil War
The Civil War caused a huge increase in the demand for prosthetic legs. This led a rapid growth in prosthetic leg technology. James Hanger, a confederate soldier and engineer, became one of the first amputees of the Civil War. He invented the Hanger Limb. The Hanger Limb featured hinged joints at the knee and ankle. It was the most advanced limb in the history of prosthetics.
There wasn’t much advancement after the Civil War until 1946. In 1946, researchers at UC Berkeley developed a suction sock for lower-limb amputees. Then, in the 1970’s, Ysidro M. Martinez invented a lower limb prosthetic that focused on reducing friction and improving gait. This made walking with a prosthetic on much more comfortable for amputees.
Today and The Future of Prosthetics
Today, we are closer than ever before to replicating the full function of an amputated limb. With so many advancements made, such as 3D printing and biometrics, we are able to re-create limbs that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but provide functioning and comfortability. The future of prosthetics is bright and full of rapid advancements.
The history and evolution of the prosthetic leg is long and full of incredible stories and advancement. Long gone are the days where humans have to feel incomplete or inferior from having an amputated limb, and we owe it to the amazing inventors of our past, and the scholars of our future. Check out our gallery photos for some inspiration or a glimpse of the prosthetic work we do!