History Mesh

Henri Maillardet (18th Century)

Henri Maillardet (1745-?) was a Swiss mechanician of the 18th century who worked in London producing clocks and other mechanisms.

In 1805 Henri Maillardet built spring-activated automaton that draws pictures and writes verses in both French and English. 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 text. It is believed that this automaton has the largest cam-based memory of any automaton of the era.

When first presented to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 1928, the automaton was of unknown origin. Once restored to working order, the automaton itself provided the answer when it penned the words “written by the automaton of Maillardet”.

Relation to Automatons:

The fact that this automaton, when activated after more than a hundred years of being dormant, managed to clearly write its maker’s name, is astonishing – even better, the device was also capable of seven different sketches.

It is also interesting to note that Henri was primarily a creator of clocks and other more practical mechanisms, showing that automatons were still being used as a way of trialling new and more complex mechanisms, and paving the way for more and more complex machinery.

Read more about Henri Maillardet on Wikipedia.