The first prosthetic was a replacement hand fashioned out of iron for the purpose of holding his shield and was able to return to battle and continue fighting
The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) wrote of a Roman general in the Second Punic War (218-210 B.C.) who had a right arm amputated. He had an iron hand fashioned to hold his shield and was able to return to battle.
The Dark Ages saw little advancement in prosthetics other than the hand hook and peg leg. Most prostheses of the time were made to hide deformities or injuries sustained in battle. A knight would be fitted with a prosthesis that was designed only to hold a shield or for a leg to appear in the stirrups, with little attention to functionality.
In 1508, German mercenary Gotz von Berlichingen had a pair of technologically advanced iron hands made after he lost his right arm in the Battle of Landshut. The hands could be manipulated by setting them with the natural hand and moved by relaxing a series of releases and springs while being suspended with leather straps.
In 1800, a Londoner, James Potts, designed a prosthesis made of a wooden shank and socket, a steel knee joint and an articulated foot that was controlled by catgut tendons from the knee to the ankle. It would become known as the “Anglesey Leg” after the Marquess of Anglesey, who lost his leg in the Battle of Waterloo and wore the leg. William Selpho would later bring the leg to the U.S. in 1839 where it became known as the “Selpho Leg.”
As the U. S. Civil War dragged on, the number of amputations rose astronomically, forcing Americans to enter the field of prosthetics. James Hanger, one of the first amputees of the Civil War, developed what he later patented as the “Hanger Limb” from whittled barrel staves
Developed by Van Phillips in 1984, Flex Foot’s carbon graphite technology essentially put a spring in the wearers step. By storing the kinetic energy of each step, the artificial foot allowed amputees to jump, walk and run at speeds of up to 28 feet per second.
Integrated sensors in the polyurethane knee monitor the weight, motion and force and onboard microcontrollers process that data while tracking gait patterns. An actuator interprets that data and initiates appropriate resistance in the knee joint whether a person is standing still, turning a corner or walking in a straight line.