Medicine: Instant Prostheses

In 1963, Polish Surgeon Marian A. Weiss told an international meeting of orthopedists in Copenhagen that he and a French surgeon were fitting artificial legs while patients were still on the operating table—and still under anesthetic for their amputations. To most of his American listeners, Weiss seemed far off base. In U.S. experience, it always took from three months to a year to let a stump heal and to fit a permanent prosthesis on which the patient could learn to walk.

Less than three years later, the revolutionary technique is being used in half a dozen U.S. medical centers from Seattle to...

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