History of Robotics: From Archytas of Tarentum to Da Vinci robot (Part I)
Sánchez Martín FM, Millán Rodríguez F, Salvador Bayarri J, Palou Redorta J, Rodríguez Escovar F, Esquena Fernández S, Villavicencio Mavrich H.
Department of Urology. Fundación Puigvert. Barcelona. Spain
Actas Urol Esp. 2007;31(2):69-76
“The only real errors are human errors”
(Last Law of Robotics. Anonymus)
HISTORY OF ROBOTICS: FROM ARCHYTAS OF TARENTUM TO DA VINCI ROBOT. (PART I)
surgery is the last technological novelty in urology. It is interesting to
know its history to learn how robots work. Manufacturing machines that
resemble humans has been going on for more than 4000 years. There are
references to King-su Tse, classic China, who invented an automaton in 500 b.
C. Archytas of Tarentum (about 400 b. C.) is considered the founder of the
mathematical mechanics, and one of the classic teachers of the western
robotics. During the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Classicism, robots were
constructed by people like Hero of Alexandria, Hsieh-Fec, Al-Jazari, Roger
Bacon, Juanelo Turriano, Leonardo da Vinci, Vaucanson or von Kempelen. In the
XIX century there were important advances in the engineering fields and also
in robotics. In 1942, coinciding with the beginning of the modern robotics,
Asimov published the “Three Laws of Robotics” based in the mechanics,
electronic and computing. The robotics development in industrial, war and
aerospace levels during XX century allowed the appearance of high precision
robots, useful in surgery, like the surgical da Vinci® robot
(Intuitive Surgical Inc,
Keywords: Robotics. Robotic urology. History of Robotics. History of Medicine. Archytas.
The image of the robot as a machine similar to human being has been prevailing in the cultures for many centuries. The desire to manufacture machines able to carry out independent tasks has been a constant in the history, through which they have described great number of devices, direct predecessors of current robots1. The future of surgery will be linked to robots, machines in which the human being has overturned his inventiveness from the antiquity.
The term “robot” was firstly used by Karel Capek (in his play “R.U.R.” “Rossum’s Universal Robots”2, written in collaboration with his brother Josef and published in 1920. The word “robot” comes from the Czech word “robota” meaning “work”3, in the sense of obligatory nature, understood like servitude, forced labor or slavery, specially related to the so called “hired workers” that lived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire till 1848. This concept is directly connected to the “master-slave” terminology of current robots, when the units based each movement in a human order. In the play “R.U.R.” the assembly lines manufacturing performed by human-like mechanical creatures is developed both in narrative and philosophical aspects. Some years later, the play was adapted for the screen in the film “Metropolis” and the term robot remained with this meaning. Even the Capek’s robots were organic artificial humanoids; the word robot is almost always used to refer to these mechanical humanoids. The term android could refer to any of these, while a cyborg (“cybernetic organism” or “bionic man”) is a creature with combined organic and mechanics parts. (Fig. 1).
FIGURE 1. Archytas of Tarentum, one of the first automated machines builders in the history.
History of Antique Robotics
the year 1300 b. C., Amenhotep, son of Hapu, constructed a statue of Memon,
king of Ethiopia, that emits sounds when, at dawn, it is illuminated by the
rays of the sun. The Egyptians developed advanced mathematical models and
constructed very sophisticated automatism, like the water clock. There is
evidence of the abacus existence between year 1000 and 500 to b. C, although
doubts persist whether it was invented in
be considered as the oldest and most perfect machines closed to automaton concept
and consecutively to the robotics. Es frecuente hallar relojes
que incluyen figuras humanas móviles que se mueven con el orden de las horas. The clock in
FIGURE 2. The “Papamoscas”,
automaton of the
famous Middle Age automatons are the mechanic servant of Albertus Magnus
(1204-1282) and the talking head of Roger Bacon (1214-1294)6.
In the year 1235, Villard d’Honnecourt, perpetual-motion machine constructor21, writes an outlines book, including sections about
mechanic gadgets. An example is an automaton angel22.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) constructed an automatic lion in honor of Luis
XII than opened its breast to reveal the royal coat of arms23.
En 1495 he made one of the first recorded designs of a humanoid robot of the
Western World: A mechanical knight able to sit up, wave its arms and move its
head (it has a flexible neck) and open and close it jaw. These machines are likely
to be based on his anatomical research recorded in the Vitruvian Man and its
mathematical clues. About year 1500, he also designed a mechanical calculator,
predecessor of Blaise Pascal`s operational calculating machine invented a
century later, thus meaning that the Italian genius projected robotics from a
formal and computer point of view24. Salomon de
Caux (or Caus) (1576-1626), studious of steam as energy source, constructed
various automated devices taking gardening as a base (fountains, birds)25. At the beginning of XVI century, Hans Bullmann
created a few androids simulated people of which some can even play musical
instruments; en 1533 Johann Müller, known as Regiomontanus, constructed in
several flying metal and wood birds; and ten years later John Dee showed in
The artificial intelligence development was parallel to the automaton invention. Special mentions deserve, with its calculating machines, John Napier (1550-1617) (1621), Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635) and Charles Babbage (1791-1871). On the other hand Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), Allen Marquand (1853-1924) and John Venn (1834-1923) worked in logical algorithms32. The development of mathematical models with mechanical operative like the one of George Boole (1815-1864), allowed moving from classic robotics to the modern one, taking the computation as base33.
Vaucanson (or of Vaucanson)34, (1709-1782) is one
of the most famous and complete constructor of automated androids of history35. Person of great talent crossed all
FIGURE 3. The duck of Vaucanson, one of the most ingenious automata of the antiquity.
FIGURE 4. Superior limb prosthesis constructed by Ambroise Pare.
Knauss (1724-1789), technician, watchmaker, impressed in 1760, the court of
Francis I, emperor of
In 1785 the
watchmaker Pierre Kintzing and the cabinet maker of the Queen David Rontgen
(1743–1807), constructed a dulcimer placer android that belonged to Marie
Antoinette and can still be admired at the
In 1769, the
Hungarian engineer Johann Wolfgang Ritter von Kempelen (o Ján Vlk Kempelen)45 (1734-1804), constructed one of the most famous
automata of the history: a machine to play chess (Fig. 5). The machine was
built in the shape of a life-size man who sat in front of a large cabinet that
served as a table. The man was made of wood and dressed in Turkish clothes. He
was usually referred to as "the Turk." Before the automaton was used,
all the doors of the cabinet were opened on opposite sides (one pair at a
time), and a candle's light was shined through the cavity, to demonstrate to
the audience that no one was hidden inside. The first third of the cabinet was
filled with clockwork gears, while the rest was more or less empty. The (human)
opponent played on a separate table with a separate board and pieces. A large
key was used to wind up the automaton's mechanism before each game. The
automaton always played white, thus going first. The operator started the game
by reaching inside the small door in the torso of the automaton and flipping a
switch. The sound of machinery could be heard each time the automaton moved.
Games usually lasted about 30 minutes. The mannequin won the most complicated
match and become famous in
FIGURE 5. Von Kempelen chess player automaton, “The Turk”, in an engraving that shows a hidden man inside the cabinet directing the match.
century, advances in the industrial field, had already happened like the steam
engine of Thomas Newcomen (1664 - 1729), later developed by Humphrey Potter -
who introduced a new concept: the feedback and by James Watt (1736-1819)50. In 1801 Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834)51, a textile industrialist, made a fundamental
contribution to the robotics when designing a system of automatic operation of
the looms, programming his movements. One is a multiperforated cardboard that
allows classifying some tasks and repeating them in identical form52 Many years later IBM incorporated this system of
programming in its first computers53. In 1801, C.
Spencer had invented a machine that produced screws, nuts and washers of
variable size, based on the substitution of interchangeable guides, which acted
as a “program”43. In 1828 the English physicist
Robert Willis constructed a machine that pronounced the vowels by means of
tubes of reed40. In 1834, the physicist
André-Marie Ampere (1775-1836) initiates the way of the cybernetics, settling
down the principles of sciences of the government of machines. In 1898 Nikola
Tesla (1856-1943), inventor of the electrical motor of alternating current54, presented what some people considered as the first
robot of the modern history: a radio controlled was demonstrated to the public
during an electrical exhibition at Madison Square Garden of New York, from
which it patented the Teleautomation, a torpedo remoted-control for military
use11. Between the end of the XVIII century and
principles of the XIX the brothers Maillardet (Henri, Jean-David,
Julien-Auguste, Jacques-Rodolphe)55 constructed a
robot that drew pictures and wrote verses in both English and
French56. The motions of the hand are produced by a series
of cams located on shafts in the base of the automaton, which produces the
necessary movement to complete seven sketches and the text57 Jean Eugene
Robert-Houdin (1805-1871) (nothing to do with Harry Hudini, famous magician in
1920)58, father of the modern magic59, and Stevenard, become famous because of their
automata. Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891) founded the “Barnum-Baily Circus “and
the “American Circus” in which he gathered together dozens of automata, some of
them brought from Europe, amongst which was the speaking machine of professor
Joseph Faber of Vienna predecessor of gramophone40.
In 1891 Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), in addition to his important
contributions to the technique (incandescent lamp, gramophone), he constructed
several automata, amongst them a speaking doll. In 1906, Lee de
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) used “the robotic” term for the first time and postulated the three laws of the robotics in his book “I Robot”61 published in 1950, coinciding with the heyday of modern robotics (Fig. 6).
FIGURE 6. Isaac Asimov, in 1965.
2. Karel C. R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots. Penguin Classics. Referencia en http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/Book Display/0,,0_9780141182087,00.html
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30. Bennett S: A history of control engineering: 1800-1930. Editorial Peter Peregrinus, Londres 1979.
32. McCorduck P. Machines Who Think.: W. H. Freeman Ed. San Francisco.1979.
34. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_de_Vaucanson# Carrera_como_inventor_de_aut.C3.B3matas
37. http://www.neuchateltourisme.ch/f/villes-musees/?tb=basic &add_id=18&fid=30
38. http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/representations1.pdf#se arch=%22leschot%20robot% 20prosthesis%22
39. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aut%C3%B3mata_(mec%C3% A1 nico)#Friedrich_von_Knauss
41. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aut%C3%B3mata_(mec%C3% A1nico)
43. http://www.webdearde.com/modules/Tutoriales/apuntes/ aprob.pdf
56. http://www.nyu.edu/pages/linguistics/courses/v610051/gel manr/cult_hist/text/p312.html
61. Asimov I. Yo Robot. Edhasa. 1979. Barcelona.
Correspondence author: Dr. F.M. Sánchez-Martín
Department of Urology. Fundació Puigvert. Cartagena, 340-350.
08025 Barcelona. Telf. 934 169 700
Author e-mail: email@example.com
Paper Information: History of Urology
Manuscript received: september, 2006
Manuscript accepted: november, 2006