Androids in the Enlightenment: Mechanics, Artisans, and by Adelheid Voskuhl

By Adelheid Voskuhl

The eighteenth century observed the production of a few outstanding mechanical androids: at the very least ten fashionable automata have been equipped among 1735 and 1810 via clockmakers, courtroom mechanics, and different artisans from France, Switzerland, Austria, and the German lands. Designed to accomplish refined actions corresponding to writing, drawing, or tune making, those “Enlightenment automata” have attracted non-stop severe cognizance from the time they have been made to the current, frequently as harbingers of the fashionable commercial age, an period within which human our bodies and souls supposedly grew to become mechanized.
In Androids within the Enlightenment, Adelheid Voskuhl investigates such automata—both depicting piano-playing ladies. those automata not just play tune, but additionally circulation their heads, eyes, and torsos to imitate a sentimental physique means of the eighteenth century: musicians have been anticipated to generate sentiments in themselves whereas taking part in, then converse them to the viewers via physically motions. Voskuhl argues, opposite to a lot of the next scholarly dialog, that those automata have been detailed masterpieces that illustrated the sentimental tradition of a civil society instead of expressions of hysteria in regards to the mechanization of people by means of commercial expertise. She demonstrates that in simple terms in a later age of business manufacturing facility creation did mechanical androids instill the phobia that smooth selves and societies had turn into indistinguishable from machines. 

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Vaucanson’s fame was primarily due to his 1738 book Le mécanisme du fluteur automate, which he promoted actively, and the article “L’automat” in Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie. 33. Vartanian, “Biographical Sketch of La Mettrie,” 18. 34. Another example of a philosopher who used automata to promote Newtonianism was John Theophilus Desaguliers. A distinguished natural philosopher, a skilled experimentalist, a popular lecturer, and a committed Newtonian, he translated Vaucanson’s book on his fluteplaying automaton into English in 1742.

They specialized in building musical automata and mechanical musical instruments that were as close to the original as possible in their acoustical reproductions. Johann Gottfried Kaufmann, the father, was born in 1751, the son of a hosier near Chemnitz (Saxony). Johann Gottfried’s own parents were very poor, and he initially underwent an apprenticeship in his father’s craft. 58 His master died in 1772, even before Johann Gottfried had finished his apprenticeship, but he continued his master’s workshop on behalf of his master’s widow.

44 Hero’s works include nobles attended the court at any given time. Sturdy, Fractured Europe, 292–95. On early modern court culture and its manifold interrelations with political power, the arts, and artisanship, see also Holme, Princely Feasts and Festivals; Apostolidès, Le roi-machine; Blanning, Culture of Power, 29–52. 42. Kunisch emphasizes the role of diplomacy in this intercourt competition, and he uses the term Öffentlichkeit to describe it. Kunisch, Absolutismus, 63–72. During the eighteenth century, the small courts of the minor German-speaking states rose to meet Louis XIV’s standards, engaging in a strenuous competition to pursue their political agendas.

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