The First Known Robot Was Created Around 400 BC and Was a Mechanical Bird

Japanese body remover

Japanese Body Remover

Today I found out the first known robot was created around 400-350 BC by the mathematician Archytas and was an artificial bird.

Archytas, who is known as the “father of mechanical engineering,” constructed his bird out of wood and used steam to power the movements of the robot.  This bird was then suspended from a pivot bar. In its best recorded run, it “flew” about 200 meters before running out of steam.  This is not only the first known robot, but was also one of the first recorded instances of a scientist doing research on how birds fly.

If you’re not familiar with the man, Archytas was a very famous philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, commander, statesman, and strategist in his day.  Among his many accomplishments include being named the “founder” of mathematical mechanics (what we now call mechanical engineering).  He was also an elected General for seven consecutive years, which violated the law at the time.  However, because he never lost a single battle in his time as “strategos,” the people decided to continue to elect him as the ruler of their city-state anyway.

His mathematical works also heavily influenced Plato and Euclid, among others.  Among his mathematical accomplishments were: in geometry, he solved the problem of “doubling the cube,” as proposed by Hippocrates of Chios.  He also made great advancements in musical theory, using mathematics to define intervals of pitch in the enharmonic scale in addition to those already known in the chromatic and diatonic scales.  In addition to this, he showed that pitch on a stringed instrument is related to vibrating air.

Archytas’s virtue was also such that it is thought that Plato, a close friend, used Archytas as his model for the “Philosopher King.”  He also seems to have strongly influenced Plato’s political philosophy as shown in “The Republic” and other works.  For example, “How does a society obtain good rulers like Archytas, instead of bad ones like Dionysus II?”

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Bonus Facts:

  • Artisans in China developed an elaborate functional mechanical orchestra around 200 BC.
  • Leonardo Divinci designed and built the first known humanoid robot around 1495.  This robot was an armored knight that could sit up, wave its arms, and move its head while opening and closing its jaw.
  • Cybernetics professor Kevin Warwick became the world’s first cyborg, putting computer chips in his left arm that he uses to remotely control doors, an artificial hand, and his electronic wheelchair, among other things.  Among his more famous experiments: in 2002, using a connection to his nervous system, he connected through the internet and controlled a robotic arm, including being able to feel what the arm/hand felt through sensors in the hand.  Another extrasensory preceptor he has wired up to his nervous system is an ultrasonic sensor attached to a hat.  His wife has also been similarly equipped, though with a simpler device connected to her nervous system so that they can “communicate” with one another through the internet; more or less transmitting “feelings” to one another.
  • The first known human killed by a robot was in 1981, when a robotic arm, no doubt in a diabolical plot to try to take over the world, tragically crushed a Japanese Kawasaki factory worker.
  • The “Archytas” crater on the moon is named in Archytas’ honor.
  • The word “android” was coined by German philosopher Albertus Magnus who attempted to create an artificial being which he named “Android”, using the “angels from the netherworld” and the powers of the philosopher’s stone that he created from the “metals and material unknown to this world…”  When he “completed” this project after 30 years, his student, St. Thomas, supposedly destroyed the “diabolic being” and denounced it as a “tool of Satan and blasphemy to God.”
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