Prosthetics are designed to help people with severe disabilities bring some normality back into their lives. Prosthetics are by no means a new invention, even before the birth of Christ people used prosthetics to replace lost body parts both cosmetically and functionally.

By Philip Bedruna

The Beginnings

This is captain Holzbein, due to glorious adventures throughout the Caribbean, he is unfortunately dependent on a wooden leg and hook for a hand  

The oldest known prosthetics dates from around 950 to 710 BC, she imitated a big toe and was later found as a mummy, after several experiments it was found that the prosthetic must have been functional. It can still be visited today in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, however Captain Holzbein needed a larger amount of prosthetics and therefore had to resort to a wooden leg.

The two world wars helped the prosthetic manufacturers to a boom in business due to the numerous injured and wounded soldiers, the demand for prosthetics massively increased. Among other things the “Orthopedic Industry GmbH” from Berlin, which is known today as the “Otto Bock” served this newly created need.

Prosthetics were created that were initially of a purely cosmetic nature, despite restoring body functions to some extent, the previous condition could never be restored completely.


The first steps of progress

Captain Holzbein is happy about his upgrade

Fortunately research has not stopped and it is now possible,with a lower leg prosthetic, to actively compete in elite level sport. Captain Holzbein can therefore separate from his eponymous wooden leg. With this new prosthetic he could sprint again instead of limping. 


Functionality instead of cosmetics

Captain Holzbein can now grab things without damaging his surroundings

Captain Holzbein’s hooked hand turned out to be a bit of a hindrance in everyday life but now there are solutions here too. They can communicate with the bodies central nervous system in order to mimic the natural movements of the hand as best as they can. Furthermore the materials used to build the prosthetics have advanced and are now made of PVC instead of the traditional wood, leather or glass, due to this the prosthetics also appear significantly more human-like.

So off with the hook!

Restoration of lost senses

Captain Holzbein is finally able to reverse park

The next step is the complete restoration of the lost senses, there are already visual aids that give blind people the ability to recognise outlines as well as light and shadow but most eye prosthetics are still cosmetic.

Prosthetic manufacturers are still some way away from Captain Holzbein’s Cyborg eye!

With Material from:

  • Otto Bock
  • Ägyptisches Museum Kairo
  • Das Ärzteblatt
  • Handelsblatt