Jaquet-Droz Automata in Neuchatel, Switzerland

IMG_0833, originally uploaded by dynamicsubspace.

When Y and I were in Switzerland over the summer, I made a point to visit the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire in Neuchatel, Switzerland. The main reason that I wanted to make that trek from Laussane was to see the Jaquet-Droz automata: the musician, the draftsman, and the writer. Built in the 18th century, these mechanical beings are capable of complex tasks reflected in their names. Using complex and precise mechanisms, the writer can be programmed to write script, the draftsman can reproduce various drawings, and the musician can play her instrument. The musician is perhaps the most intriguing, because she is the most lifelike in her gestures, movements, and even replication of breathing. Unfortunately, the automata are only turned on for demonstrations once a month, and we had missed that month’s demonstration by about a week. Nevertheless, I was honored to see these fantastic creations in person.

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

Posted in Science Fiction
Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.


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