Vintage Photographs of Artificial Limbs will Change the Way You See them Forever

The earliest recorded prosthetic belonged to the warrior queen Vishpala in the Hindu text the Rigveda. The Egyptians were early pioneers of prosthetics as well, with prosthetics dating back 3,000 years. An ancient Roman general, Marcus Sergius, who lost his right hand, had an iron handmade to hold his shield.

In Germany, in 1508, Gotz von Berlichinger had technologically advanced iron hands made after he lost his right arm. The hands could be manipulated by setting them with his natural hand and moved by relaxing a series of releases and springs.

Improvement in amputation surgery and prosthetic design came at the hands of Ambroise Paré. He invented an above-knee device that was a kneeling pegleg and foot prosthesis with a fixed position, adjustable harness, and knee lock control.

With the advancement of gaseous anesthesia in the 1840s, doctors could perform longer and more careful amputations allowing the severed limb stumps to be prepared to neatly fit into prosthetics. Advances in sterile surgeries also helped improve the success rate of amputation procedures which increased the need for prosthetic limbs.

The National Academy of Sciences, an American governmental agency, established the Artificial Limb Program in 1945. It was created in response to the increase of World War II veteran amputees and for the purpose of progressing scientific progress in prosthetic development. Since this time, advances in areas such as materials, computer design methods, and surgical techniques have helped prosthetic limbs to become increasingly lifelike and functional.

Trade Card advertising Artificial Limbs – published in New York the late 1800s. Pinterest
A remarkable black and white image photographed by James Gillingham show just how detailed each perfectly fitted each prosthetic was. Daily Mail
It was 150 years ago a shoemaker named James Gillingham met a man who, after losing his arm in a cannon accident, was told by doctors there was nothing that could be done about it. Daily Mail
Offering to make the man an arm at no cost, Gillingham, based in Chard, England, was eager to put his craftsmanship to test and subsequently invented the first ever artificial limb. Daily Mail
By 1910, James Gillingham had restored mobility and function to over 15,000 patients. Daily Mail
Nicknamed The Leather Leg, the prostheses took ten days to make and were said to be ‘easy wearing and not likely to get out of repair. Daily Mail
The prosthetics were described as simple in construction, and as beautiful as life in appearance’ Daily Mail
‘[Each] patient must be [treated] on the spot, to have the limb properly fitted and adapted to his individual case, an article in an 1866 edition of The Lancet explains. Daily Mail
‘There was nothing remarkable in its make, only the principle of fit and adjustment.’ Daily Mail
Described as ‘strong, light, and durable’ in an 1866 article in The Lancet, the artificial limbs were made out of leather. Daily Mail
According to Chard Museum, the prosthetic maker would mold the leather to the patient’s limb before hardening it. Daily Mail
World War One, Prosthesis for eye and eyelid of wounded soldiers. Fake eye and glasses, France, 1916. Photo by Jacques Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images
World War One, Soldier wearing prothesis to replace one eye and the eyelids, France, 1916. (Photo by Jacques Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
A German soldier equipped with two sophisticated artificial legs, 1917. CNN
Prosthesis, 1944. Pinterest
The earliest known prosthesis, dating possibly as far back as 950 B.C., was discovered in Cairo on the mummified body of an ancient Egyptian noblewoman. The prosthesis is made largely of wood, molded and stained, its components bound together with leather thread. Pinterest
During the Middle Ages, wars were conducted using swords and other weapons that swiped and otherwise crushed limbs. This, combined with the fact that missing limbs were often considered to be shameful deformities, led to innovations in prosthetics. Artificial limbs, as extensions of knights’ suits of armor, began to be constructed of iron. The prosthetic arm above created for the Franconian Knight Götz von Berlich after a cannonball took his left arm in 1504. Pinterest