10 Heroes of Robotic History

It’s National Robotics Week, and we feel we owe a lot to those who’ve worked tirelessly over the past 2500 years or so (yeah, it goes back that far) in dreaming up, designing, building and programming mechanical marvels.  The following is but a mere sample of what’s been accomplished in robotics, but it represents how far we’ve come.  Here’s to the next 2500 years!

Somewhere between 428 and 347 BC

Archytas of Tarentum builds “the Pigeon”, a steam-propelled mechanical bird.

322 BC

Greek philosopher Aristotle dreams of automated, mechanical humans that will help us with work.  He muses, “If every tool, when ordered, or even of its own accord, could do the work that befits it… then there would be no need either of apprentices for the master workers or of slaves for the lords.”

1770 AD

Pierre Jaquet-Droz and son Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz make automata for European royalty, including three dolls: one could write, one could draw, and one could play music.

1898

Nikola Tesla builds a remote controlled robot boat and shows it off at Madison Square Garden.

1940

Isaac Asimov writes a story about robots, and in doing so, pens a set of three laws for robots.

1961

Heinrich Ernst of MIT creates the MH-1, a computer-operated mechanical hand.

1969

Victor Scheinman, a student in Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) creates the Stanford Arm.

1976

Shigeo Hirose of the Tokyo Institute of Technology creates the Soft Gripper.

1989

Dean Kamen founds FIRST Robotics competitions, and students worldwide get a shot at being engineering all-stars.

1996

David Barrett of MIT designs RoboTuna, to be used to study the way fish swim.

Amy Leask is VP of Enable Education, and author of “According to Phil: A Young Thinker’s Guide to Robots”.  She’s still waiting for the modern version of Rosie from The Jetsons to take over her housekeeping.  

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