Persian called Abu Mansur Muwaffak first
described the coating of plaster
for fractures and other bony injuries of the limb.
A 16th century Frenchman,
Ambroise Pare, designed a wide variety of braces and
artificial limbs as well as a scoliosis corset and a clubfoot boot.
The word "Orthopaedics" was first
used by a French physician, Nicolas Andry, in 1741
at a time when the term was largely used in connection with
the correction of childhood deformities such as rickets. It
is derived from the two Greek Words orthos meaning straight and
paedios meaning child .
The 18th century Swiss physician Jean-Andre Venel specialised
in the treatment of deformities in crippled children.
He is known as the father of orthopaedics, making various braces and appliances at his
The 19th century Dutchman, Antonius Mathysen,invented the plaster of Paris bandage for
the immobilisation of fractures.
A British doctor from Liverpool, Hugh Owen Thomas, is
reknown as the father of British orthopaedics. He was a
qualified doctor from a family of "bone setters".
Wandering in the beautiful Welsh countryside, Thomas acquired the art of
splinting birds and animals with broken bones. At
odds with other common methods of his time, he
invented several types of splints, with rigid steel bars, to allow rest and
immobilisation in the treatment of fractures and tuberculosis.
These splints were
manufactured in his own workshop by a blacksmith and a saddler. The Thomas Splint
is still used today. Thomas's splints are probably
the true starting point of the orthopaedic leg-brace that
we know today .
Thomas's nephew Sir Robert Jones promoted orthopaedics training as a speciality
in Liverpool and he has a spinal brace named after him, the Robert Jones brace
It was not until the 20th century when the most significant contributions
to orthotic sciences were made, stimulated by the aftermath of the
first and second world wars and the polio epidemics of the late 1940’s and early
After graduation in 1952, Ronald Huckstep worked in Africa mainly
on the treatment of polio. He developed many splints
and other useful devices, including the Huckstep Nail. He became Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at
the University of New South Wales in 1973.
For about 100
years the basic design of the leg-brace has hardly changed
although leather buckles and straps have been replaced increasingly
by velco fastenings. The steel uprights have also been replaced
by lighter weight, but stronger, metals. In the last 20 years
the design of the leg-brace has moved on somewhat with more
use of cosmetic stylings. These are considered more user-friendly
and less "orthopaedic" in appearance. They
are usually made with materials such as thermoplastics with velcro
fastenings and are designed to blend in more with the contours
of the legs. Many users still prefer the conventional
leather and steel or other more lightweight metal designs,
especially for use in hot climates, where the plastic designs
can be uncomfortable.
 The History of Orthopaedics
 "L'orthopédie ou l'art de prevenir et
de corriger dans les enfans, les difformités du corps"
Nicolas Andry. Published in 1741.
 Hugh Owen Thomas biography
(available at Surgical-tutor.org.uk)
 "Muscle recovery in poliomyelitis.
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (American)"
W.J.W Sharrard. Published in 1955
 "Diseases of the hip, knee and ankle joints, with there
deformities treated by a new and efficient method"
Hugh Owen Thomas. Published in 1857
"Poliomyelitis: A guide for developing countries
including appliances and rehabilitation"
R.Huckstep. Published 1975.