Prosthetics is the branch of surgery dealing with mechanical devices used to reproduce the form and function of missing body parts. Prosthetics is the replacement of faulty or amputated body parts with artificial body parts. Artificial limbs have been in use since at least 300 BC. In AD 1509 German knight, Gtz von Berlichingen, called Gtz of the Iron Hand, wore an artificial hand with jointed fingers. Early in the 19th century a German prosthesist built a hand with fingers that could be flexed or extended and that could hold light objects, such as a pen or a hat. Before World War I (1914-1918), wood was considered the best substance for making artificial legs, but later an aluminum alloy called Duraluminum, and more recently fiber materials, have made artificial limbs both lightweight and strong. In recent years, the manufacture of prosthetic devices has developed into a science. Artificial limbs with functioning joints can simulate natural motion. Hip joint prostheses can provide virtually normal mobility for people with damaged hip joints.
Artificial limbs, in one form or other, have been in use from ancient times. In 1885, a specimen was discovered in a tomb at Capua, Italy, along with other relics dating from 300BC. The celebrated artificial hand built in 1509 for the German knight Gotz von Berlichingen, who was called Gotz of the Iron Hand, weighed about 1.4 kg (3 lb.) and had articulated fingers so constructed as to be able to grasp a sword or lance. The hand is in the Nrnberg Museum and is still in working order. Early in the 19th century a German prosthesist built a hand with fingers that could be flexed or extended without assistance and yet could still close to hold light objects, such as a pen, a handkerchief, or a hat. In 1851, a French prosthesist invented an artificial arm fitted with a wooden hand and attached to a leather socket that fitted the stump firmly. The fingers were half-closed, the thumb pivoted on a pin and could press firmly against the fingertips by a concealed, strong rubber band; the grasp of the thumb could be operated by a mechanism attached to the opposite shoulder. The same inventor devised a leg that reproduced a natural gait and lengthened the stride.
Before World War I, wood was universally considered the best substance for making artificial legs. Prosthetic devices made of leather reinforced with metal bands tended to lose their shape and were therefore unsatisfactory. Finally, the use of an aluminum alloy called Duraluminum, and later of fiber materials, made possible the manufacture of an artificial limb that was both lightweight and strong. Synthetic polymers now being introduced provide a skin-like covering for some forms of prosthesis. To ensure maximum comfort for the wearer some prosthetic devices are now fitted immediately following amputation of the natural limb. A rigid plaster dressing is applied to the site, serving as a socket for the attachment of a temporary prosthetic device. More recently, use of a removable plaster dressing has reduced pain and infections while the prosthesis is being fitted. In certain severe cases, permanent artificial arms are equipped with small battery-powered motors, which facilitate movement at the joints.
The Committee on Prosthetics Research and Development of the National Research Council coordinates the design and development of prosthetic devices. Special prosthetic training schools have been set up at several universities for the teaching of modern prosthetic concepts to physicians, surgeons, prosthesists, and physical and rehabilitation counselors. Prosthetics are used for more than just amputated body parts, it can be used for special effects such as special costumes and contact lenses. Prosthetics is one of the oldest and most important new technologies in the science world today. Much of the attention in this field is focused on cloning right now due to the fact that prosthetics have not had any extremely new or amazing finds after cloning.