Androids in the Enlightenment: Mechanics, Artisans, and by Adelheid Voskuhl

By Adelheid Voskuhl

The eighteenth century observed the production of a couple of extraordinary mechanical androids: no less than ten well-liked automata have been equipped among 1735 and 1810 by way of clockmakers, courtroom mechanics, and different artisans from France, Switzerland, Austria, and the German lands. Designed to accomplish subtle actions comparable to writing, drawing, or tune making, those “Enlightenment automata” have attracted non-stop severe cognizance from the time they have been made to the current, frequently as harbingers of the fashionable commercial age, an period within which human our bodies and souls supposedly turned mechanized.
 
In Androids within the Enlightenment, Adelheid Voskuhl investigates such automata—both depicting piano-playing girls. those automata not just play song, but in addition stream their heads, eyes, and torsos to imitate a sentimental physique means of the eighteenth century: musicians have been anticipated to generate sentiments in themselves whereas enjoying, then converse them to the viewers via physically motions. Voskuhl argues, opposite to a lot of the next scholarly dialog, that those automata have been designated masterpieces that illustrated the sentimental tradition of a civil society instead of expressions of tension in regards to the mechanization of people by means of business know-how. She demonstrates that basically in a later age of business manufacturing unit creation did mechanical androids instill the phobia that sleek selves and societies had develop into indistinguishable from machines. 


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Additional resources for Androids in the Enlightenment: Mechanics, Artisans, and Cultures of the Self

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61. A picture of the Belloneon is in Engelmann, “Aus der Geschichte,” 799. See also Beyer, Faszinierende Welt der Automaten, 72. 62. The instrument was a keyboard in the form of a vertical fortepiano. The strings were hit not with a hammer but with a cylinder covered with leather and treated with rosin. Engelmann, “Aus der Geschichte,” 843. 63. Beyer, Faszinierende Welt der Automaten, 72; Wolf, Kaufmanns Trompeterautomat, 29. 64. The trumpeter is kept at the Deutsches Museum under inventory number 4423.

In this endeavor, I benefit from the guidance of historians of technology of the past fifty or so years who have navigated the assumptions, scattered records, and legends that present themselves to historians of the automaton. In 1964 Derek de Solla Price and Silvio Bedini contributed essays to an early issue of Technology and Culture, and they went on to be cited in every subsequent automaton study. They integrate automata more rigorously into intellectual and social contexts than did survey works from earlier in the century, but both essays also have distinctly universalist and teleological elements, which greatly influence their overall arguments.

Several prominent men, among them Gerbert d’Aurillac (ca. 950–1003), who later became Pope Sylvester II; Albertus Magnus (ca. 1193–1285); Roger Bacon (ca. 1214–1294); and Regiomontanus (1436–1476), are alleged to have built or owned automaton-like devices. Magnus’s “Iron Man” worked as a guard at his door, asking visitors about their requests and then deciding, upon their answer, whether or not to grant them entrance. Although descriptions of this automaton are scarce and vary greatly, there is some consistency in the legend according to which Thomas Aquinas, Magnus’s favorite pupil, demolished the automaton.

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