Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics

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Katherine Ott, David Serlin, Stephen Mihm
NYU Press, Apr 1, 2002 - History - 359 pages
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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.

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About the author (2002)

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.

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