Article ID: CBB622872905

The Locksmith, the Surgeon, and the Mechanical Hand: Communicating Technical Knowledge in Early Modern Europe (January 2019)


This article uses a locksmith's design for a mechanical hand in the surgeon Ambroise Paré's widely influential Oeuvres (1575) to examine the transmission of technical knowledge in early modern Europe. The article interprets Paré's chapter on artificial limbs through the lens of material culture, and then uses its findings to explore the movement of craft knowledge through print. A comparison between Paré's woodcut image of the prosthesis and an extant sixteenth-century mechanical hand from Kassel, Germany grounds Paré's woodcut in ongoing practices of making prosthetic technology. Analyzing the transmission of Paré's Oeuvres in light of the creative environment of artificial limb design and construction transforms our understanding of the potential utility of the printed image for different viewers. The dissemination of this woodcut design reveals a form of technical knowledge transfer that was endlessly adaptable to the experiences of artisans from different craft groups.

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Authors & Contributors
Li, Bin
Gao, Jian-ming
Leslie, Stuart W.
Kargon, Robert H.
Kargon, Robert Hugh
Gerritsen, W. P.
Comparative Technology Transfer and Society
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Histoire des Sciences Médicales
Kexue Jishu Zhexue Yanjiu (Studies in Philosophy of Science and Technology)
Journal of Dialectics of Nature
Free Press
Honoré Champion
Diffusion of innovation; diffusion of knowledge; diffusion of technology
Technology transfer
Technological innovation
National histories
East Asia, civilization and culture
Paré, Ambroise
Catelan, Laurent
Gersdorff, Hans von
Celsus, Aulus Cornelius
Estienne, Charles
United States
16th century
20th century, late
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
19th century
17th century
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

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