The History of Prosthetics Reveals a Long Tradition of Human Cyborgs

For centuries, humans have invented ingenious devices to replace lost limbs. Here we have a gallery of some of the most cutting-edge prosthetics from years past — comparable to today's bionic arms. What's fascinating is that these historic devices weren't just about limb replacement, but also enhancement.

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Even 500 years ago, people yearned to upgrade their bodies and have new limbs that did more than the old ones.

The right arm of Gottfried "Götz" Von Berlichingen, made of iron, 1500s

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Illustration for article titled The History of Prosthetics Reveals a Long Tradition of Human Cyborgs

Götz lost his arm during the siege of Landshut in 1504 at his age of 24. Gottfried, a Franconian Imperial Knight continued his military activities, and lived for 82 years!

(via Wikimedia Commons)

An articulated right arm, from the early 16th century

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(via Haruenishikawa)

Illustrations from Dix livres de la chirurgie (Ten books of Surgery), by Ambroise Paré, 1564

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Illustration for article titled The History of Prosthetics Reveals a Long Tradition of Human Cyborgs
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(via Wellcome Images)

A German prosthetic hand, made entirely from iron, c. 1580

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Illustration for article titled The History of Prosthetics Reveals a Long Tradition of Human Cyborgs

(via My Armoury)

"Künstliche Fußmaschine" (means "Artistic Foot Machine"), by Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger, 1809

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(via Wikimedia Commons)

An articulated wooden hand from the 19th century

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(via Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation)

A Victorian hand from the mid-19th century

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(via Stacey Shintani)

Samuel Decker, a Civil War veteran who built his own prosthetics, mid-1860s

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(via Reddit)

A revolver attached to a wooden leg

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(via Oobject)

Another artificial left arm from the Victorian age, late 19th century

Illustration for article titled The History of Prosthetics Reveals a Long Tradition of Human Cyborgs

The elbow joint can be moved by releasing a spring, whereas the top joint of the wrist allows a degree of rotation and an up-and-down motion. The fingers can also curl up and straighten out. The leather upper arm piece is used to fix the prosthesis to the remaining upper arm.

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Illustration for article titled The History of Prosthetics Reveals a Long Tradition of Human Cyborgs
Illustration for article titled The History of Prosthetics Reveals a Long Tradition of Human Cyborgs
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(via Gizmodo and reddit)

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Gripping device used with an artificial arm, used by a soldier who fought at the Siege of Ladysmith in 1899 during the Second Boer War (1899-1901)

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(via Sciencemuseum and Victorian Achronists)

A prosthetic arm of a 16 year-old girl, made of wood, leather and textile, by London-based C.A. Hoefftoke in the early 1900s

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Illustration for article titled The History of Prosthetics Reveals a Long Tradition of Human Cyborgs

(via Science Museum)

A Roydon prosthetic arm, designed to allow the wearer to span an octave on the piano, 1904

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(via Pinterest)

A Swiss Army-made multifunctional artificial hand

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(via Augmentation Limitless)

A prosthetic leg invented by Mr. H. H. Thomas, March 1919

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(via Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

A French soldier injured during WWI

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(via Wikimedia Commons)

Patrick O'Neill, a one armed blacksmith, illustrating his useful false limb, November 1929

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(via Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A man with a mechanical hand making a castor for a piece of furniture in a workshop, 1942

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(via Express/Express/Getty Images)

Captain Maxwell uses his artificial arm to hammer in a nail. The arm was supplied by the Ministry of Pensions for service and civilian war casualties, July 1942

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(via Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Mr. Brown, the works manager at the Ministry of Pensions, tests an artificial hand recently designed by Mr A. W. Shaw, May 1948

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(via Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Brothers Donald, left and Paul Holmen of Holmen Laboratories measure irises on plastic eyes on the "Multi-Cyclops" roundtable in Burbank, California, December 1948

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The eyes are so life-like that the pupils, by a cunning optical illusion, dilate in subdued light and contract in sunlight. They are custom made to match patient's eye color and consist of 30 to 60 layers of liquid plastic.

(via AP Photo/DAB)

A man in military uniform with a prosthetic right arm sits at a table cutting a piece of meat

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(via Images from the History of Medicine)

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DISCUSSION

All I keep thinking about after seeing these is Trapjaw from He-Man. I just had a my shoulder surgically repaired with a metal plate and about 12 screws a month ago, does that make me part cyborg?