From the dawn of civilization man has had a need for wholeness, and began noticing deformity. One of the first written accounts of prosthesis is a poem written between 3500 and 1800 B.C.E. in India. It accounts of Queen Vishpla who lost her leg in a battle, was fitted with iron prosthesis, and then returned to battle. The reason of amputation in early civilization varied from religious purposes to appease the gods, from wounds received in battle, and in some cultures even as punishments. In Peru a thief would have his hand removed, for laziness a foot, and for rebellion they would have both arms removed. The first prosthetics was leather of wooden cups with crutches.
During the Dark ages there wasn ’t much alternative of prosthetics than a wooden peg or a hook hand. When the world began the Renaissance the technology for prosthetics improved drastically an iron arm of the German mercenary is an example of the advances in prosthetics they had made. Although many of the prosthetics during the 1600s were refinements of armor type devises over time they gradually gained function.
In 1696 a Dutch surgeon, Pieter Andrannszoon Verdyn invented the first non-locking, below the knee joint and corset. In 1858 Dr. Douglas Bly of Rochester invented and patented “Dr. Bly’s anatomical leg”. He considered it to be “the most complete and successful invention ever attained in artificial limbs.”
The American Civil War marked the beginning of modern warfare and the post war industrial revolution. It began with the commitment to supply prosthesis to veterans who lost limbs in the war. Many of the inventors of the prosthetics were amputees themselves, but sadly their inventions were specified for themselves and thus only were fit for a select few amputees. In 1912 Marcel Desoutter, an English aviator who lost his leg in an airplane accident, made the first aluminum prosthesis with the aid of his engineer brother, Charles.
During the two world wars inventors of prosthetics were isolated from each other and even surgeons. This made their progress move at a slow pace. To make matters worse the U.S. had a very low amputation casualty of 4,403 in World War I and because of the Great Depression before World War II progress in prosthetic technology was even slower in America, and because of the Wars, advances in Europe didn’t reach the U.S. In Response to the slow improvement of prosthetics Normal Kirk, Surgeon General of the Army, suggested that the National Academy of Sciences investigate the prosthetic state of the art. Soon after the scientist went to Europe we realized how far behind we were. Progress began to quicken when the orthotics joined the American Limb Manufacturers Association making it the Orthopaedic Appliances and Limb Manufacturers Association. In 1950 the name was changed to the American Orthotics and Prosthetics Association or A.O.P.A.