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A leg up on the competition
First artificial leg made in Meredith

10/09/14
By Hippo Staff news@hippopress.com



Nowadays, we can make high-tech body parts like bionic limbs. But over 150 years ago, one of the first and most important innovators of prostheses came from a little town in the heart of the Lakes Region.

Benjamin Franklin Palmer of Meredith received a patent in 1846 for one of the first artificial legs created in America.
According to a first-hand account written by Palmer, which can be found at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, the leg was made out of wood, similar to the peg leg, which had been the original artificial substitution for lost limbs before Palmer’s invention. The wood, however, was intended for “excessive lightness,” with Palmer claiming he wanted the full-length limbs to weigh less than 3½ pounds and limbs below the knee to weigh less than 2 pounds.
He also wanted the leg to imitate the movement of a human leg. To achieve this, Palmer created articulate joints at the knees, toes, and ankles to give the leg a natural feel and to recreate the same type of motion a flesh-and-bone limb has.
The leg was made with tendons and springs at both the knee and the ankle, which, according to Palmer, “perfectly imitate nature,” allowing the limb to perform the same functions as the achilles tendons, flexor and extensor muscles.
The artificial leg received several awards, including the Scott Legacy Medal and Premium of the Franklin Institute. 
 
As seen in the October 9, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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