Writing sample created using the Mechanical substitute for the arms, United Kingdom, 1919

Made:
1919 in United Kingdom
Writing sample created using the mechanical substitute for the arms, United Kingdom, 1919. Detail image - double page Writing sample created using the mechanical substitute for the arms, United Kingdom, 1919. Detail shot from the book - Writing sample created using the mechanical substitute for the arms, United Kingdom, 1919. Detail image, double page

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Writing sample created using the mechanical substitute for the arms, United Kingdom, 1919. Detail image - double page
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Writing sample created using the mechanical substitute for the arms, United Kingdom, 1919. Detail shot from the book -
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Writing sample created using the mechanical substitute for the arms, United Kingdom, 1919. Detail image, double page
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Exercise book recording the first attempts at writing using the mechanical substitute for the arms, 1919

These tools and other materials are associated with an invention known as the mechanical substitute for the arms. It was designed and made during the First World War by George Thomson, a Scottish gas fitter. It is an example of one of many technological solutions suggested by members of the public to challenges arising out of the war. Thomson’s invention was made for men who had lost both arms at the shoulders, an extremely rare injury even among the 41,000 British servicemen who lost one or more limbs during the First World War. For a small number, their injuries were so severe that there was no limb stump left on which to attach a functioning artificial limb.

A number of tools, including cutlery, a cup holder and scissors were clipped on to a mechanical arm, which was then attached to an ordinary dining table. The user could operate the arm and tools with foot pedals placed underneath. As well as feeding himself, the trained user could type, write with a modified fountain pen, cut with a knife and scissors and strike a match to light a cigarette. The sheet shows typing and a book contains writing samples from a man using the mechanical arm at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, England – the hospital was founded in 1915 to provide wounded servicemen with prosthetic limbs.

Details

Category:
Orthopaedics
Collection:
Sir Henry Wellcome's Museum Collection
Object Number:
A602321/5
type:
writing sample