Father of robotics?

Oct 10, 2007

Do you know who is considered to be the "father of robotics?" The word "robotics" was first coined by Isaac Asimov in 1941 but the concept has been around much longer. If you are thinking Leonardo da Vinci, you are close. Drawings left by Leonardo, made around 1495, depict the first recorded designs of a humanoid robot but someone else got there before him. Concepts akin to a robot can be found as long ago as the 4th century BC, when the Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum postulated a mechanical bird he called "The Pigeon" which was propelled by steam. The first person to actually build a programmable humanoid robot was Al-Jazari in 1206.

According to Wikipedia, Ibn Ismail ibn al-Razzaz Jazari (in Arabic: Al-Jazari in Arabic a.k.a. Al-Jazari) was an Arab Muslim scholar, inventor, and mechanical engineer during the Islamic Golden Age (Middle Ages). While his birth and death dates vary with almost every article written about him, other details about his life and work are better known. Al-Jazari is not only known as the "father of robotics" he also documented 50 mechanical inventions (along with construction drawings) and is considered to be the "father of modern day engineering." The inventions he mentions in his book include the crank mechanism, connecting rod, programmable automaton, humanoid robot, reciprocating piston engine, suction pipe, suction pump, double-acting pump, valve, combination lock, cam, camshaft, segmental gear, the first mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, and especially the crankshaft, which is considered the most important mechanical invention in history after the wheel. Not bad for a guy who lived 800 years ago!

Al-Jazari's Automata, precursors of programmable humanoid robots

Al-Jazari also noted a number of practical joke devices in his text. Some were trick drinking vessels that appeared to contain water but could not be emptied. Others looked empty but produced water when tipped over.

The History Channel is currently running "Ancient Discoveries: Machines of the East" which includes information about Al-Jazari. A DVD of this program can be checked out in the Parks Library Media Center or you can check the program listings to see when it is slated to re-run: http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/tv_guide/listings

The Parks Library also has the following related books:

The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices(this is a translation of Al-Jazari's original text written in 1206)
Call number: TJ144 .J3913 1974

Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery (volume 2 has information on Al-Jazari)
Call number: Q175.46 S35 2000

A History of Engineering in Classical and Medieval Times
Call number: TA15 H54x, 1984

Wikipedia article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Jazari

Full-text access to the Government Reports

The DARTS (Depository Access to Reports Technical & Scientific) database from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) provides full-text access to approximately 240,000 documents published in 1964-2000 from a wide variety of government agencies. NTIS publishes reports in almost every subject area, science, social sciences and even some in the humanities. All projects funded with U.S. Government research monies are required to have some sort of published report available. The vast majority of these are available through NTIS. DARTS is a beta project to make the scientific reports available full-text online.

DARTS is currently in beta test and is only accessible from within the Parks Library - and requires a userid and password to access it. To access this database, please inquire at the Parks Library Help & Information Desk.

Food Chemical Codex 5th edition [electronic resource]

Food Chemicals Codex cover

The Library has obtained electronic access to the latest edition of the Food Chemical Codex. This tool has been published by the National Academy of Sciences; however, future editions will be published by United States Pharmacopeia (USP). The Food Chemical Codex (FCC) is a compendium of standards that promote quality and safety of food additives such as nutrients, preservatives, flavorings, and colorings. The FCC was developed in the late 1950's following passage of the 1958 Food Additives amendment to the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It was updated in 1966, 1972, 1981, 1996, and 2003. The fifth edition and its supplements represent a comprehensive revision with substantial changes in specifications for heavy metal limits particularly of lead. This edition features 52 new entries on food additives and 48 new entries on flavoring agents. Each entry provides a physical description of the substance and its uses in foods, lists its purity requirements, describes the appropriate tests to determine compliance, and provides packaging and storage guidelines. To access this electronic book - go to: