In contradiction to common belief, the middle ages were not a dark and savage time, plagued by constant wars and conflicts. Quite to the contrary, in this time we made many scientific and technological advances. Constantly creating and improving cutting edge mechanisms.
This article will be devoted to one of these devises, which was in-fact far ahead of it’s time; Götz von Berlichingen’s Iron hand.
Götz von Berlichingen, was a German knight and mercenary who was active up till the mid sixteenth century. Twice outlawed by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, once for raiding a group of merchants and once for leading a mounted raid into Hesse, capturing Phillip IV, Count of Waldeck and releasing him for a big ransom. He also led the German Peasants' War, which he later deserted. Fought against the Ottoman empire and French invaders and fellow Germans.
When a Bishop once demanded his surrender, he replied with his now famous words: “Er kann mich im Arsche lecken!” Which led to the commonly used expression: “You can kiss my ass!”
He was however also widely known for his prosthetic iron arm, an replacement for one that he lost due to enemy cannon fire.
Now most prosthetic limbs in that time were no more then a hook or a peg, primitive tools usually good for only a single task. Which is exactly what Von Berlichingen started out with. He used a wide variety of hooks and gantlets, trying to keep doing his work despite his handicap.
Obviously, he never was content with his prosthesis and always dreamt of something more, something that would make him as good as any whole man.
A few years later, he got his wish. Commissioning a mechanical arm which enabled him to hold the reins of a horse, the shaft of a lance and playing cards. On top of that it could also hold a feather quilt with enough precision and accuracy to write.
This mechanical masterpiece was ages ahead of its time, controlled by various buttons and leavers, being extremely precise, according to him it rendered more service in the fight than ever did the original flesh.
The creators name has been lost in time, but some think that the hand was made in Nuremberg, a town which held the top craftsmen of that time. Responsible for inventions like the German wheelock pistol.
Finally, he retired and died in bed at the age of eighty, a feat rarely achieved by men in his line of work.
His life inspired lots of people, like the famous writer Goethe, who wrote a play called Götz Von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand. A WWII captain who had his ship called after him. And many more.
His hand also had a big influence on modern prosthetics, still being studied by many doctors and technicians who use it for inspiration.
The hand and other items of his are now displayed in his old castle, Jagsthausen castle.
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The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand. - Frank Herbert
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