Industrial Limbs

This is a letter typed by a man with no limbs after being fitted with artificial arms. I love the fact that he ties so many things together – the Enlightenment was a wideranging movement, encompassing art, science, reform, philosophy. He seems to be saying an advance in one field suggests progress in the others, and why not?

“Is it too much to hope that at least in British territory the night is finally gone, & that under enlightened & Sympathetic rule, the Negro will now have an opportunity of developing himself & his country? For a period of transition has arrived in earnest? The missionary the government and tyhe [sic] railway in very diverse ways are crating a new west africa making it difficult to write in the present tence [sic]of fashions that flourished ten years ago.”

To Witt, prosthetic limbs, railways, evangelism and abolition of slavery were all part of the same thing, just as the contents of cabinets of curiosities were all linked, forming together a unified system, the world as they knew it, as they could comprehend it. Unfortunately some of the people who lost their limbs were from the same industry that gave them replacements – factory accidents, railway accidents, etc.

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