A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life
By Gaby Wood
(Anchor, Paperback, 9781400031580, 352pp.)
Publication Date: July 8, 2003
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During the eighteenth century, the inventor Jacques de Vaucanson created a mechanical duck that seemingly could digest and excrete its food. A few decades later, Europeans fell in love with “the Turk,” a celebrated chess-playing machine built in 1769. Thomas Edison was obsessed for years with making a talking mechanical doll, one of his few failures as an inventor. In our own time, scientists at MIT are trying to build a robot with emotions of its own.
What lies behind our age-old pursuit to create mechanical life? What does this pursuit tell us about human nature? In Edison’s Eve Gaby Wood traces the history of robotics, from its most brilliant inventions to its most ingenious hoaxes. Joining lively anecdote with literary, cultural, and philosophical insights, Wood offers a captivating and learned work of science and history.
Gaby Wood attended Cambridge University and has been a regular contributor to The Guardian and the London Review of Books. She is the author of a short work of nonfiction, The Smallest of All Persons Mentioned in the Records of Littleness, and is now living in London, where she is a staff writer for The Observer. This is her first full-length book.
“A lively, elegant, and surprising book, packed with curious details and enticing anecdotes.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Densely anecdotal and engaging, and almost frighteningly well-researched . . . A lovely and often brilliant book.” —The New York Observer
“A treasure trove of marvels and information. Wittily and cogently written, this unusual cultural analysis provides us with unsettling insights.” —Joyce Carol Oates
“Masterly, elegant and thoughtful cultural history . . .engaging and deceptively simple.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“Wonderful . . . a rigorously researched and grippingly narrated weaving of tales.” —The Financial Times (London)
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For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org