The History and Evolution of Prosthetics

  • 950 BCE

    Earliest Example of a Prosthesis

    Earliest Example of a Prosthesis
    The earliest example of a prosthesis ever discovered was a big toe, belonging to a noblewoman, which was found in Egypt and dated between 950-710 B.C.E. Worn nearly 3,000 years ago, this toe is a representation of the history of prosthetics being as much about function as identity.
  • 218 BCE

    First Documented Wearer of a Prosthetic Limb

    General Marcus Sergius is considered the first documented wearer of a prosthetic limb. In the second Punic War, Sergius lost his right hand and was given a prosthesis, fashioned from iron, that enabled him to hold his shield and continue fighting.
  • 1508

    First Pair of Advanced Iron Hands

    In 1508, Gotz Von Berlichingen made the first pair of advanced iron hands after he lost his right arm in the Battle of Landshut.
  • 1529

    Advances in Modern Amputation Surgery and Prosthetic Design

    Advances in Modern Amputation Surgery and Prosthetic Design
    Ambroise Paré introduced modern amputation procedures (1529) to the medical community and made prostheses (1536) for upper and lower-extremity amputees. He made significant advances in both amputation surgery and the development of prosthetic limbs.
  • First Non-locking Below-Knee Prosthesis

    First Non-locking Below-Knee Prosthesis
    In 1696, Pieter Verduyn developed the first non-locking below-knee (BK) prosthesis, which would later become the blueprint for current joint and corset devices.
  • Anglesey Leg

    In 1800, a Londoner, James Potts, designed a prosthesis made of a wooden shank and socket, a steel knee joint and an articulated foot. It would become known as the “Anglesey Leg” after the Marquess of Anglesey, who lost his leg in the Battle of Waterloo and wore the leg.
  • New Method of Ankle Amputation

    Sir James Syme discovered a new method of ankle amputation that did not involve amputating at the thigh. This was welcome among the amputee community because it meant that there was a possibility of walking again with a foot prosthesis versus a leg prosthesis.
  • Improvement of the Selpho Leg

    Improvement of the Selpho Leg
    In 1846, Benjamin Palmer saw no reason for leg amputees to have unsightly gaps between various components and improved upon the Selpho leg by adding an anterior spring, smooth appearance, and concealed tendons to simulate natural-looking movement.
  • Doctor Bly’s Anatomical Leg

    Doctor Bly’s Anatomical Leg
    Douglas Bly invented and patented the Doctor Bly’s anatomical leg in 1858, which he referred to as “the most complete and successful invention ever attained in artificial limbs.”
  • Invention of an Advanced Prosthesis

    In 1863, Dubois Parmlee invented an advanced prosthesis with a suction socket, polycentric knee and multi-articulated foot.
  • Introduction of Metal Limbs

    The increasing number of amputees after WW1 led to the first major development in prosthetic legs, the introduction of a light copper-aluminium alloy. Until this point many amputees were still using wood and leather peg leg prosthetics.
  • Knee Sockets to Amputees

    Knee Sockets to Amputees
    For the first time artificial legs with bending knee joints were widely distributed to amputees. The 'knee' would often need to be locked in place when stood upright and then released with the press of a switch in order to bend it when sitting down.
  • Prosthesis to Mimic Walking

    Prosthesis to Mimic Walking
    This limb saw the introduction of a 'smart' knee joint that would only lock when there was pressure from the 'heel' hitting the ground, it would then bend when there was pressure on the 'toes' creating the feel of a natural walk.
  • First Pair of Stubbies

    The first pair, pictured here, was designed for a two year old girl and were made from asbestos. These short limbs are now used as a first-step prosthetic for above knee amputees.
  • Extension Prosthetics

    Thousands of children were being born with stunted limbs. These fixed one piece aluminium legs attached to the hips using pelvic bands. These legs were designed to give maximum stability when walking through the use of an artificial shoe.
  • Plastic Limbs in Cambodia

    Plastic Limbs in Cambodia
    In Cambodia many children were stepping on old landmines left over from the pre-1979 . This saw the widespread use of small, lightweight plastic limbs in the country for the first time.
  • A Quantum Leap in Prosthetics

    A Quantum Leap in Prosthetics
    Otto Bock Health Care introduce the microprocessor controlled knee shin system C-Leg to the United States. Often described as a "quantum leap" in prosthetics the C-Leg remains one of the most desired artificial legs to this day.
  • First Bionic Foot

    As the world's first bionic foot, artificial intelligence takes the place of the human nervous system, constantly making judgements about the movement needed adjusting to different ground surfaces and changes in activity.
  • First Bionic Knee

    The world's first bionic knee is motor-powered and its artificial intelligence closely simulates human muscle activity, allowing the wearer to almost seamlessly adjust to differing gradients when climbing stairs.
  • The Modular Prosthetic Limb (Testing Phase)

    The Modular Prosthetic Limb (Testing Phase)
    The Modular Prosthetic Limb from Johns Hopkins University promises to deliver "humanlike" strength, thought-controlled dexterity and sensation. It's currently in the research phase, and Icelandic company Ossur is conducting preclinical trials on mind-controlled leg and foot prostheses.