50 years ago, artificial limbs weren’t nearly as responsive

Excerpt from the November 18, 1967 issue of Science News

prosthetic hand

LIFE AND LIMB  Prostheses have come a long way in 50 years. Some new artificial limbs can restore wearers’ sense of touch or be controlled by wearers’ thoughts.


Electric limbs

Very subtle control of artificial limbs by means of a tiny electronic device may become possible.… [The] electronic device … [is] designed to be injected into a muscle through a thick hypodermic needle. A tiny package strapped to the outside of the limb will beam radio waves at the device, which will return them, modified by the electric current produced in the muscle. — Science News, November 18, 1967


Artificial limbs have become more sophisticated than in the past, and users’ control of today’s prostheses is more precise. In 2012, researchers announced that a paralyzed woman could control a robotic arm with her thoughts with the help of a brain implant (SN: 6/16/12, p. 5). And in 2014, a man regained the sense of touch through a prosthetic hand via electrodes implanted in his arm’s still-functioning nerves (SN: 3/8/14, p. 16). Several companies are developing other high-tech prostheses.

Cassie Martin is a deputy managing editor. She has a bachelor's degree in molecular genetics from Michigan State University and a master's degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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