Originally posted 2016-04-05 13:18:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
The First World War pushed the need for prosthetics and scientists to provide easier mobility for returning injured soldiers
Prosthetics used to be custom-made for the wealthy who could afford it. But that changed with the big rise in demand for artificial limbs from injured soldiers returning from WWI.
At the end of the 19th century, artificial legs were typically made of wood and had to be customized for individual patients. The sheer scale of the bodily destruction wreaked by World War I created an urgent need for new prosthetics.
The flood of returning combatants from the fields of Europe inspired two key changes in the technology—the rise of the metal limb, and an increased standardization in manufacturing methods to ensure that the legs could be produced in large volumes.
A notable innovator was Marcel and Charles Desoutter was set up in 1913. When Marcel, lost his leg in a flying accident his brother, Charles, an aeronautical engineer, made him an artificial leg using an aluminium alloy called duralumin.
The duralumin leg was half as heavy as a wooden one and far sleeker. And though it was more expensive than wooden models, it lasted longer and it saved money in the long run.
Persuaded by these qualities, the U.K. government gave Desoutter Bros. a contract to supply artificial limbs for ex-servicemen, which propelled the brothers’ product to market dominance. A U.S. maker of metal legs, J.E. Hanger, also won contracts from the U.K. government to supply the new prosthetics.
The next big technological leap would not occur until the 1950s, when lightweight and extremely flexible plastics were invented and became incorporated into artificial limbs.