Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art

The Middle Ages Series
Narrated by: Harry Shaw
Length: 7 hrs and 25 mins

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Publisher's Summary

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 14th 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. 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.

The book is published by University of Pennsylvania Press.

©2015 University of Pennsylvania Press (P)2019 Redwood Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"Not only a remarkably evocative book, but it also breaks new ground by virtue of being the first survey of its kind in the English-speaking academic world." (Reviews in History)

"Engagingly written and thoughtfully researched...opens the door to further research." (American Historical Review)

"Well researched and well written...an excellent job of showing the wider cultural significance of automata within medieval history and the history of science." (Pamela O. Long, author of Openness, Secrecy, Authorship)

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