Before the prosthetic leg was invented the “peg leg” was used by amputees. The peg leg was a crutch like device that the stump of the limb leaned on. Throughout history men and women have made do with what they could to affect an artificial limb to make life easier.
The evidence of artificial limbs dates back to the beginning of history. Some of the most fascinating examples of these crude prosthetic devices can be found in literature dating from 426 BC to 1BC with tales of soldier’s fashioning metal hands after amputation of their own that were useful enough to allow them to return to battle.
An artificial leg dating back to 300 BC was unearthed in Italy. It was cast from iron and bronze with a wooden core.
Ushering In the Age of Modern Prosthetic
The man that is credited with ushering in the modern age of prosthetic devices was a French barber/surgeon that was serving in the French Army named Ambrose Pare in 1536. He revolutionized how amputation were done and introduced a new approach to creating prosthetic devices.
Through a series of leather straps, buckles and hinges he created the first “peg leg” that offered knee control. His contribution has been improved over the years continuously to best help the amputee recreate the walking function most naturally.
A friend and future partner of the good surgeon Lorrain who was a locksmith helped Pare perfect his design by using materials other than metal to facilitate an easier to move prosthetic device. Lorrain fashioned the leg from paper, glue and leather to fashion the leg which made the device much more bearable for amputees.
While there have been many people that have come along after Mr. Pare one that is especially notable is Dubois Parmlee. Mr Parmlee invented the suction device that did away with leather straps on the prosthetic devices in 1863. This improved the comfort level and infection reduction that was found with the prior models that caused hot spots on the stump and made it very uncomfortable to wear.
By 1912 prosthetic legs were being constructed of lightweight aluminum another huge jump from Mr. Pare’s paper design that wowed the world in the 1500’s. Today the prosthetic leg has come light years from Mr. Pare’s design but the basics are still very much covered. The goal is to always have the prosthetic to move as the natural leg would.
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