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Pair of artificial legs, Roehampton, England, 1977

A boy with extremely short legs used this pair of extension prostheses. The condition is called ‘phocomelia’. It was due to the effects of Thalidomide. This drug was given to pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s to ease morning sickness and aid sleep. It caused thousands of serious birth defects. Babies were born with under-developed or missing limbs. The prostheses were made by artificial limb manufacturer Hanger in 1977. The prosthesis consists of rigid pelvic bands and hip joints with leather open-ended sockets. This allowed the feet to hang free. Attached to these are struts with wooden shins and feet. The flat soles of the imitation shoe gave maximum stability when walking.

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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.