Month: October 2013

Artificial Limbs: From Peg Legs to Superhumans

When I created this blog it was with the intention of exploring pieces which can be categorised as what I call “assistive equipment”. Ask anyone who uses such equipment (especially things geared towards the older population) to describe it in one word, and their answer is likely to be along the lines of “beige”. Whilst there have been recent attempts to make such tools more exciting, aesthetic concerns are given far less consideration than functional practicalities (not without due reason I may add, there’s no point in having a perfectly co-ordinating walking stick which can’t support your weight)

However, one particular type of assistive equipment has garnered more attention than most, and an exploration of the history and development of artificial limbs can tell us a lot about cultural conceptions of (dis)ability, normality and the limits and possibilities of the human body.


Prosthetic Legs, 1612 (Wellcome Images) [Image: a line drawing of two prosthetic legs. On the left a tapered “peg-leg” style, on the right a sophisticated prosthesis with a flexible knee joint. Text above reads “Legges of Wood”]