'Instrumenta Chyrurgiae et Icones Anathomicae' by Ambroise Paré and Nicolas Rasse Desneux, France in 1564

The various machines which have been conjoined to make up ‘The Immortal’ are all forms of prostheses. They were designed and manufactured to compensate for weakness, failure or deficiencies in the human body. They even resolve matters of doctrine. The intraoperative cell salvage machine recycles a patient’s own blood during operations, satisfying the prohibition of blood transfusion by Jehovah’s Witnesses. As the Wellcome Institute exhibition shows, the history of this branch of human ingenuity is long and often unhappily circular. French surgeon Ambroise Paré designed mechanical hands to replace those amputated on the battlefields of sixteenth century France.  His 1564 manual, Instrumental Chirurgiae et Icones Anatomicae, was displayed close to Touch Bionics’ new ‘’, a highly sensitive powered prosthetic hand, often worn by veterans who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.   Replicating the subtle and complex movements of the human hand with remarkable accuracy, the i-Limb ultra is supplied with different ‘skins’. One is translucent, allowing its owner to show off his or her hand’s internal mechanisms. By putting the i-Limb ultra in the company of Paré’s historic designs, the curator’s point is clear: whilst electronics and engineering have advanced to extraordinary degrees of refinement, warfare remains brutal and primitive.

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