Maillardet's Automaton

Here's the story of one of the most complicated Automatons made at the turn of the century. It was donated to the Franklin Institute in 1928 in really bad condition from a family who had it for many years. The family told the staff that the automaton used to draw pictures, and after fixing it up, they found that it drew four elaborite drawings and wrote three poems. After writing the last poem, the automaton wrote, "Ecrit par L'Automate de Maillardet", telling everyone that it was made by Maillardet!

The Franklin Institute's Automaton has the largest "memory" of any such machine ever constructed—four drawings and three poems (two in French and one in English). Maillardet achieved this by placing the driving machinery in a large chest that forms the base of the machine, rather than in the Automaton's body.

The memory is contained in the "cams," or the brass disks seen below (left). As the cams are turned by the clockwork motor, (below right) three steel fingers follow their irregular edges. The fingers translate the movements of the cams into side to side, front and back, and up and down movements of the doll's writing hand through a complex system of levers and rods that produce the markings on paper.

Absolutely amazing.

Maillardet's Automaton [Franklin Science Institute via Neatorama]