Prosthetics Timeline

Thiago Silva

950-710 BCE

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.

16th Century

A famous and quite refined historical prosthetic arm was that of Götz von Berlichingen, made at the beginning of the 16th century. In 1504, Berlichingen and his company fought for Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria. During the siege of the city of Landshut, he lost his right arm when enemy cannon fire forced his sword against him. He had two mechanical prosthetic iron replacements made.

17th Century

François de la Noue is also reported to have had an iron hand, as is, in the 17th Century, René-Robert Cavalier de la Salle. During the Middle Ages, prosthetic remained quite basic in form. Debilitated knights would be fitted with prosthetics so they could hold up a shield, grasp a lance or a sword, or stabilize a mounted warrior. Only the wealthy could afford anything that would assist in daily life.

19th Century

In 1863, Dubois L. Parmelee of New York City made an improvement to the attachment of artificial limbs; he fastened a body socket to the limb with atmospheric pressure. He was not the first person to do so, but he was the first person to have satisfactory results. In 1898 the first practical moving limb was invented by Dr. Vanghetti; the artificial limb could move through muscle contraption.

20th Century

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.


"Prosthesis." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

Bellis, Mary. "The History of Prosthetics." Inventors., 31 Jan. 2016. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

"The History of Prosthetic Limbs." HowStuffWorks., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.