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Pair of 'swivel-walkers' designed for a child born with no lower limbs, United Kingdom, 1966

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In the late 1950s and very early 1960s, the drug thalidomide was prescribed to many pregnant women to ease morning sickness. Unfortunately, the drug caused thousands of serious birth defects worldwide. Babies were born with underdeveloped or missing limbs. This pair of ‘swivel walkers’ was made for a child born without lower limbs, known medically as amelia. This pair of artificial legs has been attached to a chest piece complete with artificial arms. However, such limbs were of limited use for many people for whom they were designed. These limbs were designed at the Ontario Crippled Children’s Centre (now called the Bloorview) in Canada. They were made by American limb-making company, Hanger. Hanger was founded by James Edward Hanger, one of the first soldiers to undergo an amputation during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Hanger designed his own prosthetic limbs and founded the company that still exists today.

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Glossary: artificial leg

A device, either external or implanted, that substitutes for or supplements a missing or defective part of the body.