PATENT No. 37,282
T.F. Engelbrecht, R. Boeklin, and W. Staehlen, Inventors 1863
"This invention consists of certain provisions for the adjustments of the parts of an artificial limb in such a manner as may be desirable to adapt ot to length of the natural limb and conformation of the foot of the intended wearer, by which means the necessity of making a limb to suit each particular case is to a great extent obviated, and in consequence the cost of manufacture is consciderably reduced."
Cliff Petersen Collection
Photography, Joanne Savio
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Surely every medicine is an innovation; and he that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator; and if time of course alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
FRANCIS BACON, Essay on Innovations

When all the dust and smoke of battle has settled, it is time to think of the wounded and the dead: cut up, amputate and bury; and once more to let the inventive faculty come to the rescue. Perhaps surgery and prosthetics owe much of their rapid development in the 19th century to the abundance of maimed bodies produced by a series of wars more and more murderous and indiscriminate in nature–625,000 dead and almost 100,000 amputees for the Civil War. War has indeed been a stimulant to inventors in the field of medicine and surgery. It was on the fields of Italy during the 16th century wars that Ambroise Pare first practiced artery ligature rather than cauterization in amputation cases.

The Civiil War was America's bloodiest conflict, with 625,000 dead and almost 200,000 amputees. Nearly half the state budget of Mississippi in 1866 went to pay for prosthesis. A good surgeon could amputate a leg in a couple of minutes.
Cliff Petersen Collection
Photography, Joanne Savio

But before anaesthesia, antiseptic and asepsis techniques, the pain and danger of infection associated with surgery made any surgical operation an intervention of last resort. As Dr. Burns points out in his essay in the monograph accompanying this exhibition:

a host of devices was invented and patented to alleviate pain and suffering, and, most importantly, to avoid surgery. Trusses for hernias, pessaries for uterine prolapse, devices for fistulas and numerous other contraptions were marketed.

After the generals, physicians were probably, the greatest blood-letters.
Their purpose was different, however. They intended it for the good
of the patient. They traditionally enlisted the help of leeches-i.e.,
Hirudo medicinalis, an aquatic bloodsucking worm. The practice was,
in fact, so common that physicians themselves were known as leeches.
Of course, the term is archaic now and found only in old texts, but the
practice was standard during most of the nineteenth century and I extended well into the twentieth. To improve on the Hirudo medicinalis,
artificial blood letting devices–artificial leeches–were patented. Today, donating blood is simple, painless, and a civic duty.


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