The earliest recorded prosthetic belonged to the warrior queen Vishpala in the Hindu text the Rigveda. The Egyptians were early pioneers of prosthetics as well, with prosthetics dating back 3,000 years. An ancient Roman general, Marcus Sergius, who lost his right hand, had an iron handmade to hold his shield.
In Germany, in 1508, Gotz von Berlichinger had technologically advanced iron hands made after he lost his right arm. The hands could be manipulated by setting them with his natural hand and moved by relaxing a series of releases and springs.
Improvement in amputation surgery and prosthetic design came at the hands of Ambroise Paré. He invented an above-knee device that was a kneeling peg leg and foot prosthesis with a fixed position, adjustable harness, and knee lock control.
With the advancement of gaseous anesthesia in the 1840s, doctors could perform longer and more careful amputations allowing the severed limb stumps to be prepared to neatly fit into prosthetics. Advances in sterile surgeries also helped improve the success rate of amputation procedures which increased the need for prosthetic limbs.
The National Academy of Sciences, an American governmental agency, established the Artificial Limb Program in 1945. It was created in response to the increase of World War II veteran amputees and for the purpose of progressing scientific progress in prosthetic development. Since this time, advances in areas such as materials, computer design methods, and surgical techniques have helped prosthetic limbs to become increasingly lifelike and functional.