History of Human Body Enhancement

History of Human Body Enhancement
Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is — Albert Camus

As well as styling their own hair, the Egyptians also employed false hair. The earliest known example is a set of hair extensions from c.3400 BC, discovered in a plundered female burial at Hierakonpolis. Although such braids were subsequently attached to the natural hair of women and occasionally men throughout society, complete wigs were significantly more time-consuming to create and therefore more costly, with their use restricted largely to the elite.

Predominantly worn by elite men and women as status markers within Egypt's well-defined social hierarchy, wigs catered for the desire for elaborate hairstyles while serving a practical purpose. A wig shielded the shaven or cropped head from the harmful effects of direct sunlight and, unlike a head scarf, its mesh-like foundation base allowed body heat to escape. The practice also maintained high levels of cleanliness, the reduction or removal of the natural hair reducing the incidence of head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) whose need to live close to the scalp's blood supply as their food source was countered by a wig that could be removed at any time. Wigs therefore became a way of maintaining ritual purity with a temple environment

Glass Eye

The earliest known evidence of the use of ocular prosthesis (also known as artificial eye or glass eye) is that of a woman found in Shahr-I Sokhta, Iran, dating back to 2900–2800 BC. It has a hemispherical form and a diameter of just over 2.5 cm (1 inch). It consists of very light material, probably bitumen paste. The surface of the artificial eye is covered with a thin layer of gold, engraved with a central circle (representing the iris) and gold lines patterned like sun rays.

On both sides of the eye are drilled tiny holes, through which a golden thread could hold the eyeball in place. Since microscopic research has shown that the eye socket showed clear imprints of the golden thread, the eyeball must have been worn during her lifetime.

Dental Implant

There is archeological evidence that humans have attempted to replace missing teeth with root form implants for thousands of years. Remains from ancient China have carved bamboo pegs, tapped into the bone, to replace lost teeth, and 2000-year-old remains from ancient Egypt have similarly shaped pegs made of precious metals. Some Egyptian mummies were found to have transplanted human teeth, and in other instances, teeth made of ivory.

In 1965 Brånemark placed his first titanium dental implant (also known as an endosseous implant or fixture) into a human volunteer. He termed the clinically observed adherence of bone with titanium as "osseointegration".

Artificial Toes

The Egyptians were early pioneers of foot prosthetics, as shown by the wooden toe found on a body from the New Kingdom circa 1000 BC.

The toe had been removed during her lifetime, because the amputation site was covered by an intact layer of soft tissue, including skin. The missing toe had been replaced by a wooden prosthesis, painted dark brown and made up of three separate components. The main component consisted of a longitudinal wooden corpus and replaced the toe. This corpus was attached to two small wooden plates. These plates were fixed to each other by seven leather strings. All wooden parts were delicately manufactured and the major corpus of the prosthesis perfectly shaped like a big toe, even including the nail.


As early as the 7th century BC, Etruscans in northern Italy made partial dentures out of human or other animal teeth fastened together with gold bands. The Romans had likely borrowed this technique by the 5th century BC.

Wooden full dentures were invented in Japan around the early 16th century. Softened bees wax was inserted into the patient's mouth to create an impression, which was then filled with harder bees wax. Wooden dentures were then meticulously carved based on that model. The earliest of these dentures were entirely wooden, but later versions used natural human teeth or sculpted pagodite, ivory, or animal horn for the teeth.

Artificial Leg

The Capua leg is an artificial leg, found in a grave in Capua, Italy. Dating from 300 BC, the leg is one of the earliest known prosthetic limbs.

Made of a wooden core sheathed in bronze, the leg was hollow near the top, presumably to accommodate padding for the owner. Thin rods and straps helped secure the limb in place. The bronze sheeting resembled the shin armor of soldiers, possibly suggesting that armorers rather than medical personnel built it. A hollow section at the ankle was probably designed for a separate foot, which was never discovered.

Artificial Hand

One of the earliest records of a prosthetic hand was described in 77 AD by Roman scholar Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedia Naturalis Historia. After losing a hand in the Second Punic War (218–201 BC), Marcus Sergius, a Roman general, received a prosthesis that enabled him to return successfully to battle.

Among the most famous examples of an early hand prosthesis was the iron hand of German knight Götz von Berlichingen. After Götz lost his hand during the Siege of Landshut (circa 1505) in Bavaria, an artisan fashioned him an iron hand with digits that could be flexed and extended passively at the metacarpophalangeal, proximal interphalangeal and distal interphalangeal joints, as well as the thumb interphalangeal joint. On strapping on the prosthesis, Götz was able to hold reins, grip weapons and return to battle. The device was modelled as an extension of battle armour rather than a human arm and, due to its weight, needed to be attached to Götz’s armour with thick leather straps.


Scattered evidence exists for use of visual aid devices in Greek and Roman times, most prominently the use of an emerald by emperor Nero as mentioned by Pliny the Elder. The use of a convex lens to form an enlarged/magnified image was most likely described in Ptolemy's Optics (which survives only in a poor Arabic translation). Ptolemy's description of lenses was commented upon and improved by Ibn Sahl (10th century) and most notably by Alhazen (Book of Optics, ca. 1021).

The first eyeglasses were estimated to have been made in Northern Italy, most likely in Pisa, by about 1290: In a sermon delivered on 23 February 1306, the Dominican friar Giordano da Pisa (c. 1255–1311) wrote "It is not yet twenty years since there was found the art of making eyeglasses, which make for good vision... And it is so short a time that this new art, never before extant, was discovered. ... I saw the one who first discovered and practiced it, and I talked to him."

Nose Prosthesis

Although the use of facial prostheses such as wax ears has been reported as long ago as the time of ancient Egypt, it was not until the sixteenth century that true historical evidence of prosthetic restorations to correct facial deformities was found.

According to the drawings of the French surgeon Ambroise Paré, the first nose prostheses were produced for rich patients using gold or silver and for poor patients using “papier mâché.” These were held to the face by a string tied around the head.

Contact Lenses

Leonardo da Vinci is frequently credited with introducing the idea of contact lenses in his 1508 Codex of the eye, Manual D, wherein he described a method of directly altering corneal power by either submerging the head in a bowl of water or wearing a water-filled glass hemisphere over the eye. Neither idea was practically implementable in da Vinci's time.

Although Louis J. Girard invented a scleral contact lens in 1887, it was German ophthalmologist Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick who in 1888 fabricated the first successful afocal scleral contact lens. Approximately 18–21 mm (0.71–0.83 in) in diameter, the heavy blown-glass shells rested on the less sensitive rim of tissue surrounding the cornea and floated on a dextrose solution. He experimented with fitting the lenses initially on rabbits, then on himself, and lastly on a small group of volunteers, publishing his work, "Contactbrille", in the March 1888 edition of Archiv für Augenheilkunde.

Hearing Aid

The first hearing aids were ear trumpets, and were created in the 17th century. Some of the first hearing aids were external hearing aids. External hearing aids directed sounds in front of the ear and blocked all other noises. The apparatus would fit behind or in the ear.

The movement toward modern hearing aids began with the creation of the telephone, and the first electric hearing aid, the "akouphone," was created about 1895 by Miller Reese Hutchison. By the late 20th century, digital hearing aids were commercially available.

Hair Transplantation

The use of both scalp flaps, in which a band of tissue with its original blood supply is shifted to the continue bald area, and free grafts dates back to the 19th century. In 1897, Menahem Hodara successfully implanted hair taken from the unaffected areas of the scalp on to the scars that were left bald by favus. Modern transplant techniques began in Japan in the 1930s, where surgeons used small grafts, and even "follicular unit grafts" to replace damaged areas of eyebrows or lashes, but not to treat baldness.

The modern era of hair transplantation in the western world was ushered in the late 1950s, when New York dermatologist Norman Orentreich began to experiment with free donor grafts to balding areas in patients with male pattern baldness. Previously it had been thought that transplanted hair would thrive no more than the original hair at the "recipient" site. Orentreich demonstrated that such grafts were "donor dominant," as the new hairs grew and lasted just as they would have at their original home.

Eyelash Extensions

In 1882, Henry Labouchère of Truth reported that "Parisians have found out how to make false eyelashes" by having hair sewn into the eyelids.

In 1902, German-born hair specialist and noted inventor Charles Nessler, (aka Karl Nessler or Charles Nestle) patented " A New or Improved Method of and Means for the Manufacture of Artificial Eyebrows, Eyelashes and the like" in the United Kingdom. By 1903, he began selling artificial eyelashes at his London salon on Great Castle Street.

Cochlear Implant

André Djourno and Charles Eyriès invented the original cochlear implant in 1957. This original design distributed stimulation using a single channel.

William House also invented a cochlear implant in 1961. In 1964, Blair Simmons and Robert J. White implanted a single-channel electrode in a patient's cochlea at Stanford University. However, research indicated that these single-channel cochlear implants were of limited usefulness because they can not stimulate different areas of the cochlea at different times to allow differentiation between low and mid to high frequencies as required for detecting speech.

NASA engineer Adam Kissiah started working in the mid-1970s on what could become the modern cochlear implant.


In 1926, Mark C Lidwill of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital of Sydney, supported by physicist Edgar H. Booth of the University of Sydney, devised a portable apparatus which "plugged into a lighting point" and in which "One pole was applied to a skin pad soaked in strong salt solution" while the other pole "consisted of a needle insulated except at its point, and was plunged into the appropriate cardiac chamber". "The pacemaker rate was variable from about 80 to 120 pulses per minute, and likewise the voltage variable from 1.5 to 120 volts".

The first clinical implantation into a human of a fully implantable pacemaker was in 1958 at the Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden, using a pacemaker designed by inventor Rune Elmqvist and surgeon Åke Senning (in collaboration with Elema-Schönander AB, later Siemens-Elema AB), connected to electrodes attached to the myocardium of the heart by thoracotomy. The device failed after three hours. A second device was then implanted which lasted for two days. The world's first implantable pacemaker patient, Arne Larsson, went on to receive 26 different pacemakers during his lifetime. He died in 2001, at the age of 86, outliving the inventor as well as the surgeon.

Breast Implant

Since the late nineteenth century, breast implants have been used to surgically augment the size (volume), modify the shape (contour), and enhance the feel (tact) of a woman's breasts. In 1895, surgeon Vincenz Czerny effected the earliest breast implant emplacement when he used the patient's autologous adipose tissue, harvested from a benign lumbar lipoma, to repair the asymmetry of the breast from which he had removed a tumor.

In 1961, the American plastic surgeons Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow, and the Dow Corning Corporation, developed the first silicone breast prosthesis, filled with silicone gel; in due course, the first augmentation mammoplasty was performed in 1962 using the Cronin–Gerow Implant, prosthesis model 1963.

Insuline Pump

In 1974 the first insulin pump was created and was named the Biostator. The first pump was so large that it was worn as a backpack. It also had the capability of monitoring the blood glucose levels so this also doubles as the first continuous glucose monitor. Today insulin pumps are so small that they can fit in a pocket or a purse.

The insulin pump was first endorsed in the United Kingdom in 2003, by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).