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Prosthetic Patents · 9 March 06 by Jesse Crossen

Another Tackle Design project, the All Patents Initiative is building tools to make the entire US patent database searchable and accessible. This will help researchers study the history of innovation and give the public access to an important part of their national heritage. The searchable data for patents before 1900 just came in from processing at HP Labs, so we did a simple search for “artificial limb”. It turned up 81 patents from 1852 to 1898, mostly for leg and foot designs. Many of these were probably developed for veterans of the Civil War. The old illustrations are beautiful, and they might contain some ideas that are still useful today. For instance, note the similarities between an 1891 patent (US Patent 450,476) and an image from this 1998 research paper:

US Patent 450,476An endoskeletal finger from a 1998 research paper

We will continue to search old prosthetic patents for “new” ideas. Here are some more great images from the collection:

US Patent 167,779US Patent 197,943US Patent 507,453