Some Prosthetic Legs in History: Part 1

Believe it or not, the peg leg was not just a concept from old pirate movies. There are many cases in history where peg legs have been used when a pirate or a soldier lost a leg in battle or from disease. Luckily, there have been many alterations and improvements made to below the knee prostheses, so the uncomfortable and rigid peg leg is only used in costumes nowadays.  












The First Few Documented Prosthetic Legs

Ambroise Paré was a French Army surgeon who, in 1579, published one of the very first artificial legs with a functioning knee, and began crafting these from various materials. After the very basic peg legs that had been used for soldiers, this was a major leap for the protheses industry.

Another major development for prostheses came about in the year 1690 when a Dutch surgeon named Pieter Verduyn developed a strap with buckles and hinges for artificial lower limbs. This invention again improved comfort and allowed the user to move more freely without worry that the prosthetic would come off. Verduyn pioneered the way forward in the prosthetic industry, and some of his ideas are still referred to in modern day prostheses.

The year 1846 saw the next development in prosthetic legs. This one held springs and metal tendons to increase mobility and comfort for the user. An inventor called Benjamin Franklin Palmer (unrelated to the Benjamin Franklin) made it his life’s purpose to invent and perfect artificial legs. His goal was to make artificial legs that imitated natural movement in the joints, so that the user could start walking again as naturally and as quickly as possible.

One of Palmers inventions being plotted out on paper

In 1863, a physician named Dubois L. Parmelee introduced the concept of atmospheric pressure into prosthetics. Using the weight of the amputee, the socket he designed allowed pressure to build up enough that the prosthetic would not fall off – eliminating the use of harnesses and straps.

One of Parmelee’s inventions with the atmospheric pressure socket

Prosthesis has a long-standing history, with many developments conducted by doctors and amputees themselves. These developments have led clever experts in prosthetics and orthotics to conclusions that allow for continuous improvements year on year.

The complexities of the joins in the legs have been rigorously studied throughout the ages to ensure that amputees can live normal lives, whether they are athletes, or ordinary people looking to get around without complications.

For more information and advice on prosthetics and artificial limbs, contact Meintjes and Neethling