History Mesh

Jacquet-Droz automata (1768-74)

Perhaps the best of many automata built by the Jaquet-Droz family are these three dolls built between 1768 and 1774 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis and Jean-Frédéric Leschot: the musician, the draughtsman and the writer. Unlike many earlier automata, as well as being intended for entertainment they were also advertisements for the Jaquet-Droz watch business. The dolls were amazingly detailed, and even the musician, arguably the simplest, plays a small custom-built musical instrument, and “breathes” as she plays. They are a long way from the simple movements of the earliest automata, but still aim for the same thing – realistic human figures.

The dolls are still functional, and can be seen at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire of Neuchâtel, in Switzerland. They are considered to be among the remote ancestors of modern computers.

Relation to Automatons:

Admitted to the presence of the Writer, you watch in amazement as he dips his pen into the inkwell at the edge of the desk and proceeds to write in a delicate hand. When done, you lift the paper to inspect his work. It seems impossible that he is not actually a talented child, or perhaps a contraption with a small woman inside, as it is rumoured may be true of the Turk.

Read more about Jacquet-Droz automata on Wikipedia.