Prosthetics Through The Ages



The act of creating devices to help others who have been born without or have lost limbs or basic functions due to war, illness, accident or violence – has been around for centuries. Often – these devices come out of the minds of those that live with or care for those that are affected.

Over the years – many prosthetic devices have been created and tested out.
Some are successful.
Some fail miserably…
some are just miserable!

Looking back through history and images of prosthetics created out of necessity – one has to wonder if the devices that ended up causing more misery than assistance had been created in a time where social media existed  –  if they would have been successful inventions.

The most beautiful thing about this current World we live in – is that we have the ability to come up with an idea that could help others, share it, get feedback, re-design, re-test and collaborate with hundreds of other creative minds to come up with a user friendly end product that helps thousands – almost instantly.

E-nable is about doing just that.

Creative minds from all over the globe – coming together to solve design problems, share their “Ah-hah!” moments and get feedback from end users who give them an idea of what is working and is not working in a particular design so that they can address issues with comfort, user friendliness and strength.

They are inspired by each other and by past creators that came up with solutions to help their fellow man throughout history.

Here are some interesting devices created over the years:

corporal cole

While working on the original design for what is now the base model for the current E-Nable groups  3D printed mechanical hand designs – Ivan was inspired by this beautiful hand-carved whale bone prosthetic hand.

It was designed for Corporal Coles in the early 1800’s by an Australian dentist/surgeon named Robert Norman who gifted it to the Corporal after both of his hands were destroyed while priming a canon.  The hand worked by using pulleys and strings that were attached to a ring that he wore on his remaining thumb.


This prosthetic wooden and leather toe was discovered in Egypt in a tomb of a female mummy and is dated to about 950-710 BC.

These CO-2 Gas powered prosthetic limbs were created out of a need to try to help children born due to birth defects from a drug called Thalidomide that was given to their mothers in the 1950s and 60’s to ease morning sickness and aid sleep. It caused their children to be born with severely under-developed or missing limbs. These devices used a system of gas canisters that worked with various movements of the body to operate them.

capau leg

The “Capula Leg” was found in Italy and was the oldest excavated artificial leg that dated back to about 300 BC. Unfortunately, the original was destroyed in an air raid during WWII.

This steel and brass Victorian aged arm was created between 1840-1940. It can be articulated at the elbow, wrist and fingers. Most amputations in this time in history were due to war. It was probably covered in a glove to avoid scaring people and to allow the Veteran to feel more confident about the way they looked.

hammer arm

The hammer arm was designed for work in a factory and had various different hammer tools that could be attached for different needs.

These prosthetic legs were created by a shoe and boot maker sometime between 1839-1924.

This acoustic headband that has been fixed with “Ear trumpets” – was created between 1901 -1930.

I wonder if they could hear the Future coming.

It is amazing what we are able to do now with 3D printing. All of these devices can now not only be thought of, prototyped, printed and tested in a matter of days (and sometimes  hours!) – but they can be shared around the World with a simple click of a button.

Someone with a need for new fingers after an industrial accident – can now simply go online in a matter of minutes and find a group of people that can design, 3d print and mail him a new hand in no time at all.

The future is here.
And it is amazing.


Paul and Leon Image
CO2 Devices
Corporal Cole’s Hand
Egyptian Toe
Hammer Hands
Victorian Hand
Prosthetic Legs