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Jacques de Vaucanson

Jacques de Vaucanson (February 24,1709-November 21,1782) was a French engineer and inventer who is credited for creating the world's first true robots, as well as for creating the first completely automated loom.

Table of contents
1 Early life
2 Career as Inventor of Automatons
3 Appointment to French Government
4 Legacy
5 See also
6 External sources

Early life

He was born in Grenoble, France in 1709 as Jacques Vaucanson (the particle "de" was later added to his name by the Académie des Sciences [1]). The son of a glove-maker, he grew up poor, and in his youth he reportedly aspired to become a clockmaker [1]. He studied under the Jesuits and later joined the Order of the Minims in Lyon. It was his intention at the time to follow a course of religious studies, but a year, he took of his studies of mechanical devices again meeting the surgeon Le Cat, with whom he working develop his first mechanical devices that mimicked biological vital functions such as circulation, respiration, and digestion [1].

Career as Inventor of Automatons

In 1737, he built his first automaton, The Flute Player, a life-size figure that played the flute and had a repetoire of twelve songs. The following year, in early 1738, he presented his creation to the Académie des Sciences [1]. At the time, mechanical creatures were somewhat a fad in Europe, but most could be classified as toys, and de Vaucanson's creations were recognized as being revolutionary in their mechanical life-like sophistication.

Later that year, he created two additional automatons, The Tambourine Player. and the The Duck, which is considered his masterpice. The duck had over 400 moving parts, and could flap its wings, drink water, digest grain,and defecate [1]. He is credited as having invented the world's first flexible rubber tube while in the process of building the duck's intestines. Despite the revolutionary nature of his automatons, he is said to have tired quickly of his creations and sold them in 1743.

His inventions brought him to the attention of Frederick II of Prussia, who sought to bring him to his court. Vaucanson refused, however, wishing to serve his own country [1]

Appointment to French Government

In 1741 he was appointed by Cardinal Fleury, chief minister of Louis XV, as inspector of the manufacture of silk in France.He was charged with undertaking reforms of the silk manufacturing process. At the time, the French weaving industry had fallen behind that of England and Scotland. Vaucanson promoted wide-ranging changes for automation of the weaving process. In 1745, he created the world's first completely automated loom [1]. Some of these inventions included the first-ever use of punch cards for the operation of machinery. For this achievement, he sometimes considered to be the father of modern computer programming. His proposals were not well received by weavers, however, and many of the more revolutionary ones were largely ignored. In 1746, he was made and a member of the Académie des Sciences[1].


He died in Paris is 1782. Vaucanson left a collection his work as a bequest to Louis XVI. The collection would become the foundation of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in Paris. His original automatons have all been lost. The flute player and the tambourine Player were reportedly destroyed in the Revolution. His proposals for the automation of the weaving processs, although ignored during his lifetime, were later perfected and implemented by Joseph Marie Jacquard, the creator the Jacquard loom.

See also

External sources