James Gillingham was a regular and ordinary shoemaker. His business, the Golden Boot, was located in Chard, England. He began making artificial limbs when a man came to him with an arm that had been blown off by a cannon. Gillingham offered to make him an arm for free. Suffice it to say, he did a really good job and the medical community took notice.
Gillingham began making a variety of prosthetic limbs from that day forward, and by 1910, he’d helped over 15,000 patients, both young and old.
As a way of tracking his work and making his designs work better, Gillingham always photographed his patients and published the photos in medical journals. He used the photographs (some are shown above) to advise surgeons on the best amputation methods.
Dr Elizabeth Hurren, a senior lecturer in history of medicine at Oxford Brookes University said:
“The important thing is the fit, and this is what a shoemaker understands how important it is for your shoes to fit properly so he thought ‘actually, people aren’t making enough of an individual fit and I can do that’.
Gillingham died in 1924, but his family continued his business for decades before finally closing in the 1960s.
Today, he’s honored in the medical community as the man who invented the first prosthetic limbs.