The Prosthetic Fetish
An Etymology of Prosthesis
Remember the Name Ambroise Paré
In Vogue

The Prosthetic Fetish

Edward & Kim Promotional Image, Edward Scissorhands . (1990)

My interest in prosthetics originates out of a morbid curiosity. My first interaction with prosthetics in the medical sense began from watching the antagonist in Disney's Peter Pan (1953) Captain Hook. I was maybe 8-9 years old. Recently though, I've discovered that the word prosthetic in the medical sense did not begin to be used in the english language until the late 1600 the original meaning comes from latin prothesis: "the addition of a sound or syllable at the beginning of a word"[1].

[1]http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/prosthesis . Dictionary Definition, Accessed on 22 November 2015.







An Etymology of Prosthesis

Clay tablet; symbol of a human head with a triangular object in front of it; typical of texts dealing with rations; in later Sumerian it is the verb to eat; the triangular object is the regular symbol for bread; three different types of numerical symbol a. Accessed from http://www.britishmuseum.org/collectionimages/AN00118/AN00118864_001_l.jpg

Carl Sagan famously said, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe". What he means by this is that in order to make an improvement on a thing we must first find out about its origins. The saying, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me" is pervasive in the Western vernacular, a parents attempt to discredit the powerful effect of words. I contest that this is a false way of presenting the power of words. Words are powerful (spoken & written), they are an extension of our five senses, the sixth sense should be known as language and not "I see dead people". It is for this reason that I must dissect and layout the history of the words prosthetic and prosthesis. In the medical, examples of prosthetics existed as early as 400 as evidenced by Egyptian example of toes that were amputated but fitted with a wooden prosthetic. It was not until early 1600's that the word prosthetic came to mean a device that replace a lost or damaged limb. As stated in the previous essay, the definition of prosthesis in the original language of latin, was meant to convey the addition of a sound or syllable at the beginning of a word. In the architectural, one can make the jump that the first dwelling is a prosthetic. Freud goes further and hypothesizes that the act of creating a dwelling is man's attempt to recreate the state of being in the womb. It was not until the advent of modernism and Corbusien ideas about architecture as a machine for living and as extensions of the human body; that the words prosthetic and prosthesis become a part of the architecture lexicon. These ideas will be studied in future essays.

[1]Sagan, Carl. Cosmos, Published:1980. Random House, New York. Print.
[2]http://archive.archaeology.org/1105/artifact/egyptian_mummy_artificial_toe.html, Archaeology Archive, The Origins of American Medicine. Accessed on November 22, 2015.







Remember the Name Ambroise Paré

Paré, Ambroise . Artifial Limb Schematic Image. Unbuilt. 1580.

Let's discuss for a moment the early history of prosthetics in the medical sense. For this we have to begin with Ambroise Paré (1510-1590). He was a French surgeon and considered the father of surgery. Paré established early on, a practice of surgery based on his experiences as a barber surgeon. Sure his practice does not compare to what we currently practice in surgery, but his early pioneering efforts established a method of treating people who had severe trauma to their bodies. Most importantly he made an early impact into prosthetics. He began his practice treating soldiers in the battlefield, he saw a lot of lost limbs and most importantly those soldiers he would treat who had lost limbs would rather take their own lives than live without a limb. Seeing this conflict, Paré began creating prosthetics for these soldiers and thus establishing a practice of prosthetic surgery. From conflict there arose an opportunity to investigate the anatomical condition of a broken body. [Revised on April 2016 "...broken human." to "...broken body"]

[1]W B Hamby, Ambroise Paré, Surgeon of the Renaissance (St. Louis: W.H. Green, 1967)







In Vogue

Figure 1. Furiosa (2015) From: Mad Max:Fury Road.Directed by:George Miller[Film Still] USA,Australia: Kennedy Miller Mitchell,RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures

There is a rising trend in the public exposure to prosthetics, we see it in the movies, fashion, news, schools, and research papers. I believe that this is linked to the also rising trend in the open discussion about body image, specially for females. There are two contemporary examples of a female that is representative of this condition; Aimee Mulins (athlete, actor, activist) and Imperator Furiosa (protagonist in film Mad Max:Fury Road, portrayed by Charlize Theron). In the case of Furiosa, she is living in a post-apocalyptic world and wields a prosthetic arm composed of various mechanical parts. This prosthetic is of the form of a human arm and also functions similarly like a human arm. This is all interesting in its own right, but even more fascintating is that in the films plot the prosthetic is used as a device that allows Furiosa to beat her pursuer. It is also her trigger finger, and most notably it is the arm that slashes the respirator mask off of Immortan Joe. Aimee Mulins has also recently been in the mainstream spotlight. She gave a TED talk "My 12 Pairs of Legs" where she explains ...

[1]Aimee Mullins. My 12 Pairs of Legs. Ted2009, Filmed Feb. 2009
[2]Mad Max:Fury Road.Directed by:George Miller[Film Still] USA,Australia: Kennedy Miller Mitchell,RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures