AUTOMATIONS. – Some wonderful accounts are handed down of mechanism
so constructed as to resemble in figure and imitate the actions of mankind. Archytas,
of Tarentum, about four hundred years before our era*, is said to
have made a wooden pigeon that could fly. Albertus
Magnus constructed an automation to open the door when any one knocked.
The celebrated Regiomontanus made a wooden eagle that flew forth from the city, saluted the emperor,
and returned. He also constructed an iron fly, which flew out of his
hand and returned, after flying about the room. In 1738, an automation
flute-player was exhibited at Paris, that could play on the flute in
the same manner as a living performer. In 1741, Vaucanson produced a flageolet player, which played the flageolet with the left
hand, and beat a tambourine with the right. He also made a duck,
which dabbed in the water, swam, drank, and quacked like a real duck.
A Frenchman exhibited a duck, seven or eight years ago, which went through
several on the same operations. Automations have been constructed which
wrote, played on the pianoforte, etc. During the present century, a
Swiss, named Mailardes, constructed a figure representing a female,
which performed eighteen tunes on the piano, and continued in motion
an hour. He also made another figure, representing a boy, that could
write and draw.
*about four hundred years before our era - should be read as about
400 BC e.g. Archytas (428 BC - 347 BC)