Book ID: CBB258385375

Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art (2016)


A thousand years before Isaac Asimov set down his Three Laws of Robotics, real and imagined automata appeared in European courts, liturgies, and literary texts. Medieval robots took such forms as talking statues, mechanical animals, and silent metal guardians; some served to entertain or instruct while others performed disciplinary or surveillance functions. Variously ascribed to artisanal genius, inexplicable cosmic forces, or demonic powers, these marvelous fabrications raised fundamental questions about knowledge, nature, and divine purpose in the Middle Ages. Medieval Robots recovers the forgotten history of fantastical, aspirational, and terrifying machines that captivated Europe in imagination and reality between the ninth and fourteenth centuries. E. R. Truitt traces the different forms of self-moving or self-sustaining manufactured objects from their earliest appearances in the Latin West through centuries of mechanical and literary invention. Chronicled in romances and song as well as histories and encyclopedias, medieval automata were powerful cultural objects that probed the limits of natural philosophy, illuminated and challenged definitions of life and death, and epitomized the transformative and threatening potential of foreign knowledge and culture. This original and wide-ranging study reveals the convergence of science, technology, and imagination in medieval culture and demonstrates the striking similarities between medieval and modern robotic and cybernetic visions.

Reviewed By

Review Dániel Margócsy (2017) Review of "Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art". Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (pp. 152-153). unapi

Review Minsoo Kang (October 2016) Review of "Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art". Technology and Culture (pp. 1007-1008). unapi

Review Elizabeth Lapina (2016) Review of "Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art". Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period (pp. 360-362). unapi

Review Wenrui Zhao (2016) Review of "Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 830-831). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Cugini, Umberto
Rovida, Edoardo
Kang, Minsoo
Genta, Giancarlo
Abnet, Dustin
Porcella, Carlo Crespellani
Science in Context
Nineteenth Century Music
History of the Human Sciences
Pavia University Press
University of Chicago Press
University of California, San Diego
University of California Press
Oxford University Press
Automata; robotics; cyborgs
Schmitt, Carl
Robert-Houdin, Jean-Eugène
Ravel, Maurice
Perrault, Claude
Kempelen, Wolfgang von
Galilei, Galileo
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
19th century
Early modern
United States
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche

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