20 Sep, 2018 600 Technology

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of real and imagined machines that appear to be living, and the questions they raise about life and creation. Even in myth they are made by humans, not born. The classical Greeks built some and designed others, but the knowledge of how to make automata and the principles behind them was lost in the Latin Christian West, remaining in the Greek-speaking and Arabic-speaking world. Western travellers to those regions struggled to explain what they saw, attributing magical powers. The advance of clockwork raised further questions about what was distinctly human, prompting Hobbes to argue that humans were sophisticated machines, an argument explored in the Enlightenment and beyond.

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  • Simon Schaffer 25 episodes
    Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University
  • Elly Truitt 2 episodes
    Associate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College
  • Franziska Kohlt 2 episodes
    Doctoral Researcher in English Literature and the History of Science at the University of Oxford

Reading list

  • Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imagination
    Minsoo Kang (Harvard University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology
    Adrienne Mayor (Princeton University Press, forthcoming November 2018) Google Books →
  • The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument Over What Makes Living Things Tick
    Jessica Riskin (University of Chicago Press, 2016) Google Books →
  • Medieval Robots: Magic, Mechanism, Nature, and Art
    E. R. Truitt (University of Pennsylvania, 2015)
  • Androids in the Enlightenment: Mechanics, Artisans, and Cultures of the Self
    Adelheid Voskuhl (University of Chicago Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life
    Gaby Wood (Faber & Faber, 2002) Google Books →

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