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B O DY


mide, extend rather than replace the natural body. Valves connected to a leather waist-belt by a nylon cord brought the spade-like hands together when the child leant backward, or opened them as they leant forward. Heavy and cumbersome, the device covered the user’s own arms (where the shoulder, elbow and hand or fingers might be absent), inadvertently preventing the young child from using them and depriving them of sensation.


…a person who has never had a limb just doesn’t seem to


understand what an arm or leg is like. And although I’ve seen quite


a few patients who have been born without...particularly without


arms, they’re desperately keen to have arms because they want to


look the same as other people… we know they’ll never wear them. But you’ve got to find out for yourself and it doesn’t feel normal to them.


Dr Ian Fletcher, who designed and fitted this prosthesis while working at Queen Mary’s


Hospital, Roehampton, interviewed in 2011 for Thalidomide: An oral history


The ‘long arm’


In 1786, American author, scientist and diplomat Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) invented a machine for ‘taking down Books from High Shelves’. Incorporating a grasping ‘thumb’ and ‘finger’, and controlled by a length of cord Franklin called a ‘sinew’, the ‘Long Arm’ was made from an eight-foot-long piece of pine.


[The prosthetics] were


uncomfortable, sometimes painful and always disabling. As a child


I was led to believe the prosthetics were for my benefit in order to


make me more capable as every other child, even though I was


more independent without them. Edward Freeman, interviewed


in 2011 for Thalidomide: An oral history


Articulated prosthetic arm Germany, 1560–1600 A121449 Science Museum / L0057510 Wellcome Images


Functional toes


Child in prostheses from Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton Photograph 1977 Yvonne Kavanagh / Thalidomide Society


Prosthetic toes have been found on or with some ancient Egyptian mummies. Originally thought to have been a cosmetic addition, intended to complete the body after death, researchers have now shown that these toes could be effective aids when walking while wearing sandals.


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