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Staff Pick

Miracles and Machines: A Sixteenth-Century Automaton and its Legend

STAFF RECOMMENDS

“Welcome to the bleeding edge of technology and artificial intelligence—from the year 1562! This study of ‘The Monk’, a sixteenth-century clockwork figure that simulates a Franciscan friar, examines the early automaton’s role as a mechanical curiosity and an artificial human. An oddly fascinating (and just a little bit creepy) account of the religious robots of the Renaissance.”

- Tim \ Book & Media Manager

The walking, gesticulating figure of a friar, in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, is among the earliest extant ancestors of the self-propelled robot. According to legend connected to the court of Philip II of Spain, the monk represents a portrait of Diego de Alcalá, a humble Franciscan lay brother whose holy corpse was said to be agent to the miraculous cure of Spain’s crown prince as he lay dying in 1562. Hardcover, 256 pages.

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