When World War I (1914-1918) began, American prosthetists were a very secluded group of professionals that rarely consulted with each other or surgeons.  During the war American amputees were far less than that of European countries, and as a result these countries had a greater urgency to develop prosthetics for their injured soldiers. Because of the relatively low amount of amputees in World War I and the economic depression, prosthetics advanced very little by the beginning of WW II. Many of the European advances had not yet reached America.
The Anglesey leg became known as the American leg, when A.A. Marks in 1856 gave it knee, ankle, and toe movements and an adjustable articulation control. In 1818, Peter Ballif, a Berlin dentist, first gave the upper extremity prosthesis prehension control with a shoulder harness and a chest strap. This same principle was used in 1844 by a Dutchman, Van Peetersen, for elbow flexion. In 1867 Comte de Beafort published and illustrated an elbow flexion lever device mounted on the chest that he had developed in 1855.
As World War II waged on, the American amputee casualty list was much greater. These veterans found the current technology (which had not changed all that much since the 1800s) inadequate. In response, Normal Kirk, Surgeon General of the Army, requested that the National Academy of Sciences investigate the prosthetic state of the art. Originally it was thought only a few designs and studies were necessary. But it soon became apparent, when the Surgeon General brought a team of engineers and surgeons to Europe in 1946, that the U.S. lagged far behind. At this time the orthotists joined the American Limb Manufacturers Association making it the Orthopaedic Appliances and Limb Manufacturers Association. In 1950 the name was again changed to the American Orthotics and Prosthetics Association, or AOPA.
This research launched a quantum leap for prosthetic science. The Artificial Limb Program was sponsored by the Veterans Administration, HEW, and the Armed Services by establishing a number of research laboratories such as the University of California at Los Angeles Laboratory for Upper Limb Study. 1956 marked the development of the SACH foot from the University of California and in 1959 the PTB prosthesis was created at University of California at Berkeley. In 1960 the Stewart-Vickers hydraulic leg became available and was improved with the Hensche-Mauch S-N-S systems. In 1968 the modern hydraulic Hensche-Mauch S-N-S knee was developed when it became apparent that hydraulic support in swing was not adequate. 
In the 1960s Russia produced a functional moving hand. Following this accomplishment the US developed a functional arm.Today electrical hands with strong silicone covers are in wide use.
The field of prosthetics has increased significantly with new developments underway. Prosthesis controlled by sounds, nerves, and muscles are on the market or in research. Hands that have a more life like quality are also available and are improving in function everyday. The movement of fingers, and coordinated movements is now possible. The twentieth century has seen major advancements in an effort to perfect and mimic the range of motions of an actual hand.
Peripheral Machine Interfaces History of Prosthetics
Website created by Kareem Adnan    |    June 9, 2006    |    UC Irvine    |    Biomedical!