The first confirmed use of a prosthetic device is from 950-710 B.C.E. In 2000, research pathologists discovered a mummy from this period buried in the Egyptian necropolis near ancient Thebes that possessed an artificial big toe. This toe, consisting of wood and leather, exhibited evidence of use. When reproduced by bio-mechanical engineers in 2011, researchers discovered that this ancient prosthetic enabled its wearer to walk both barefoot and in Egyptian style sandals. Prosthetics have been mentioned throughout history. The earliest recorded mention is the warrior queen, Vishpala, in the Rigveda. The Egyptians were early pioneers of the idea, as shown by the wooden tor found on the body from the New World.
In 1946, a major advancement was made in the attachment of lower limbs. A suction sock for the above-knee prosthesis was created at the University of California at Berkley. In 1975, Ysidro M. Martinez's invention of a below-the-knee prosthesis avoided some of the problems associated with conventional artificial limbs. Martinez, an amputee himself, took a theoretical approach in his design. He did not attempt to replicate the natural limb with articulated joints in the ankle or foot, which is seen by Martinez as causing poor gait. His prosthesis has a high center of mass and is light in weight to facilitate acceleration and deceleration and reduce friction. The foot is considerably shorter to control acceleration forces, reducing the friction and pressure.
One major difference is the presence of newer materials, such as advanced plastics and carbon-fiber composites. These materials can make a prosthetic limb lighter, stronger and more realistic. Electronic technologies make today's advanced prosthetics more controllable, even capable of automatically adapting their function during certain tasks, such as gripping or walking. While new materials and technologies have certainly modernized prosthetics over the past century, the basic components of prosthetic limbs remain the same.
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Bellis, Mary. "The History of Prosthetics." About.com Inventors. About.com, 31 Jan. 2016. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
"The History of Prosthetic Limbs." HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks.com, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.