Saturday, July 16, 2011

And It Keeps on Ticking

Stumbled across an utterly fascinating story of a sixteenth-century wooden automaton of a monk on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution. Watch the monk walk and kiss his rosary in this video, then read the article by Elizabeth King about the machine's genesis and attribution. "Monkbot" appears to have been built in 1560 by Juanelo Turriano, Emperor Charles V's mechanician. Representing Fray Diego de Alcala, a fifteenth century monk whose cause for sainthood was being promoted at the time, the automaton was commissioned by Charles's son, King Philip II, in thanksgiving for the miraculous healing of his own son Don Carlos from a near fatal head wound. It's amazing to watch the six hundred year old figure move and to read King's account of her attempts to determine its origins. Thanks to the Radiolab blog for running a recent post about this "Clockwork Miracle."

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