Go to the U of M home page

Robots and Machines: Android Automata and Early Industrialization in Eighteenth-Century Europe - A talk with Adelheid Voskuhl, Harvard University


Date: 02/10/2012

Time: 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Location: 131 Tate Laboratory of Physics

Cost: Free and open to the public


This talk is concerned with two of the famous mechanical androids built in Europe during the Enlightenment, which both display piano-playing women. Prof. Voskuhl demonstrates how they were designed to move not only their arms and hands to play music, but also their heads, eyes, and torsos to move their bodies during their recital. Doing so, they performed a contemporary sentimental body technique that was used to communicate affects from the musician to the audience and thus contribute to the larger sentimental culture of the time – a culture that was a key element in the political emancipation of bourgeois classes. Inquiring into the artisan contexts in which the two automata came into being will provide insights into the processes of proto-industrialization on the European continent and the circumstances under which such spectacular craftsmanship could flourish. Prof. Voskuhl closes her talk by asking about the role that the “Enlightenment automaton” has played in the industrial age, to this day, in making visible and comprehensible to us the increasingly complex relationships between humans and machines.

Adelheid Voskuhl is a professor of History of Science at Harvard University where she teaches and researches the history of technology from the early modern to the modern period. Her broader interests include the philosophy of technology, the history of the Enlightenment, and modern European intellectual and cultural history. She teaches classes in the history and historiography of technology, the eighteenth century, and the philosophy and theory of technology and literature. The mansucript of her first book is under contract with the University of Chicago Press. It is entitled Mechanics of Sentiment: Androids, Industrialism, and Selfhood in the European Enlightenment and is slated for release in late 2012. 


  • Name: Barbara Eastwold
  • E-mail: hst@umn.edu
  • Phone: 612-624-7069
  • Sponsored by: History of Science & Technology, Early Modern History


Parking is available at the Washington Avenue ramp and in the Church Street garage. Reciprocal contract parking is also available for those with contracts on the west bank or on the Saint Paul campus.  

More information: http://www.hst.umn.edu/events/colloquia.html

Disability Options:

To request disability accommodations, please contact the Program in the History of Science and Technology.

Save to Your Calendar

Google Calendar
Google Apps for the UofM
Yahoo Calendar