Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $21.62
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 19%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (9) from $21.62   
  • New (5) from $21.62   
  • Used (4) from $25.55   


From the wooden teeth of George Washington to the Bly prosthesis, popular in the 1860s and boasting easy uniform motions of the limb, to today's lifelike approximations, prosthetic devices reveal the extent to which the evolution and design of technologies of the body are intertwined with both the practical and subjective needs of human beings.

The peculiar history of prosthetic devices sheds light on the relationship between technological change and the civilizing process of modernity, and analyzes the concrete materials of prosthetics which carry with them ideologies of body, ideals, body politics, and culture.

Simultaneously critiquing, historicizing, and theorizing prosthetics, Artificial Parts, Practical Lives lays out a balanced and complex picture of its subject, neither vilifying nor celebrating the merger of flesh and machine.

Author Biography: Katherine Ott is a curator of Science, Medicine, and Society at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, which houses the largest collection of medical artifacts in the U.S. David Serlin is a research historian and exhibitions curator in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. Stephen Mihmis a doctoral candidate in history at New York University.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"These essays are valuable first forays into the history of prosthetics."

-Technology and Culture

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814761984
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 359
  • Sales rank: 1,174,980
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Serlin is an Associate Professor of Communication and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

The Sum of Its Parts: An Introduction to Modern Histories of Prosthetics 1
1 Engineering Masculinity: Veterans and Prosthetics after World War Two 45
2 Re-Arming the Disabled Veteran: Artificially Rebuilding State and Society in World War One Germany 75
3 From Cotton to Silicone: Breast Prosthesis before 1950 102
4 "How a One-Legged Rebel Lives": Confederate Veterans and Artificial Limbs in Virginia 119
5 Hard Wear and Soft Tissue: Craft and Commerce in Artificial Eyes 147
6 Modern Miracles: The Development of Cosmetic Prosthetics 171
7 Casing the Joint: The Material Development of Artificial Hips 199
8 "There's No Language for This": Communication and Alignment in Contemporary Prosthetics 227
9 The Prosthetics of Management: Motion Study, Photography, and the Industrialized Body in World War I America 249
10 "A Limb Which Shall Be Presentable in Polite Society": Prosthetic Technologies in the Nineteenth Century 282
11 The Long Arm of Benjamin Franklin 300
12 Technology Sits Cross-Legged: Developing the Jaipur Foot Prothesis 327
Contributors 349
Index 351
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2002

    This is prosthetics?

    The editor of this book leads off with a pretentious pseudo-intellectual argument about how prostheses symbolize male sexuality. Thank God he didn't write the entire book. This is a collection of essays some of which are only vaguely related to prosthetics. The chapter on the total hip replacement becomes little more than a list of names and dates in it's second half but the first half relates an interesting history of early efforts at hip joint replacement. Three chapters will be of interest to the prosthetic limb specialist. A discussion of Russian prosthetic services in the World War I era examines the priorities in selecting prosthetic designs. Chapters on civil war era prosthetics and communication between prosthetist and amputees are of the greatest interest. If you are prosthetic professional you will enjoy reading portions of this book but much I found much of the material of marginal interest or even off-topic, go for the paper bound edition.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)