GC: n

CT: Leonardo Da Vinci wrote extensively about automatons, and his personal notebooks are littered with ideas for mechanical creations ranging from a hydraulic water clock to a robotic lion. Perhaps most extraordinary of all is his plan for an artificial man in the form of an armored Germanic knight. According to Da Vinci’s sketches of the key components, the knight was to be powered by an external mechanical crank and use cables and pullies to sit, stand, turn its head, cross its arms and even lift up its metal visor. While no complete drawings of the automaton exist today, evidence suggests that Da Vinci may have actually built a prototype in 1495 while working under the patronage of the Duke of Milan. In 2002, NASA roboticist Mark Rosheim used Da Vinci’s scattered notes and sketches to see if he could create his own version of the 15th century automaton. The Rosheim knight proved fully functional, suggesting that Da Vinci may very well have been a robotics pioneer.

S: http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-early-robots-and-automatons(external link) (last access: 30 December 2014)

N: 1. 1610s, from Latin automaton (Suetonius), from Greek automaton, neuter of automatos "self-acting," from autos "self" + matos "thinking, animated, willing," from PIE mn-to-, from root men- "to think" (see mind (n.)).
2. Modern electronic robots can trace their roots to primitive automatons and other mechanized contraptions that first came about in the Middle Ages and the ancient world. Many of these creations were mere curiosities, but others were working humanoid and animal robots that used weights, water or ingenious clockwork systems of springs and levers to perform rudimentary tasks.
3. automaton. plural: automatons or automata.
  • a mechanism that is relatively self-operating; especially: robot.
  • a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions.
  • an individual who acts in a mechanical fashion.
4. Mechanical object, either functional (such as a clock) or decorative (such as a miniature singing bird), that is self-operating. Devices set in motion by water, falling weights, and steam were in use in the 1st century. Decorative mechanical objects were made for ecclesiastical use and table ornaments in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Spectacular fountains and waterworks can be seen in 16th-century Italian gardens; elaborate mechanical devices (such as the chess-playing Turk) were popular in the 18th–19th century. Except for some works by Carl Fabergé, the production of expensive automatons virtually ceased by the 20th century.
5. Used in the fields of Mathematics and Informatics. Plural: automata.
6. In the fields of Mathematics and Applications of Automation: A mathematical model of a system that receives discrete inputs, changes its internal states according to those inputs, and delivers outputs according to its internal states and its inputs.
7. Cultural Interrelation:
  • Reality: The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia owned a very old automaton (pronounced aw-TOM-ah-tahn).
  • Fiction: We can mention two books Edison’s Eve: A Magical Quest for Mechanical Life (2002) by Gaby Wood, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2007) and one movie: Hugo (2011) by Martin Scorsese, based on Brian Selznick's novel.
S: 1. OED - http://goo.gl/dUaejR(external link) (last access: 30 December 2014). 2. http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-early-robots-and-automatons(external link) (last access: 30 December 2014). 3 & 4. MW - http://goo.gl/KoZEz(external link) (last access: 30 December 2014) (Concise Encyclopedia) (last access: 30 December 2014). 5. GDT (last access: 31 March 2015). 6. TERMIUM PLUS (last access: 31 March 2015). 7. http://www.theinventionofhugocabret.com/about_hugo_auto.htm(external link) (last access: 31 March 2015); http://www.hugomovie.com/(external link) (last access: 31 March 2015).


CR: android, automation, computer science, cybernetics, cyborg (EN), robot (EN), robotics.


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