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DIGITAL PEOPLE

by archeologists is Roman and dates to about 300 BCE. Made of bronze and wood, it is modeled to resemble a leg from thigh to calf. Some prosthetic devices, however, were purely cosmetic, such as the metal nose (supposedly made of alloyed gold, silver, and perhaps cop- per) with which the sixteenth-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe replaced his real nose after it was sliced off in a duel. Under the same heading come cosmetic additions and replacements still used today: hair implants for men, breast implants for women, and non- functional glass or plastic eyes for both.

Purely cosmetic replacements are widespread bionic additions that are deeply important to their users, but they offer a lesser challenge than functional prosthetic devices that replicate human abilities.Much of the impetus to make artificial limbs that actually work has come from the needs of injured warriors and soldiers.The knights of medi- eval Europe in particular had a certain advantage:Their metal armor required the services of armorers, and these artisans were also capable of designing and making functional devices to replace limbs lost in battle. Because knights in armor were already clad in metal, the re- placements matched the missing limb in appearance so they worked cosmetically as well.

Some of these knightly prosthetics showed truly advanced fea- tures.The most famous example was fashioned for the German knight Götz von Berlichingen, also called Götz mit der Eisernen Hand; that is, Götz with the Iron Hand. Known as a kind of Robin Hood who took the side of peasants against their oppressors, his story was told in the play named after him, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Von Berlichingen lost his right hand from a cannon-ball strike at the battle of Landshut in 1504. He had it replaced with an iron pros- thesis that featured movable fingers that could be adjusted by his natu- ral hand and locked into place or released through an arrangement of springs.The entire artificial hand could also be set into varied posi- tions.This was not even the first or only such adjustable hand; another with similar characteristics, found near the river Rhine, is thought to date to 1400. A later iron hand and arm, dated about 1602, would look perfectly at home attached to a modern clanker robot. Other

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