Thursday 2 May 2013
So the Romans had robots...but how do we know about them?
So how do we know about Hero's (also known as Heron) robotic inventions? Well, thanks to the action of Arabic scholars who stepped in to save much of the classical science literature that survives to present day, we know Heron wrote several books on his subjects of interest. His most famous is 'Automata', which includes his steam engine operated machines for producing temple 'miracles', such as ghostly opening automatic doors, thunder machines, his various robot designs, not to mention describing pneumatic and automatic astronomical devices from the previous three centuries.
He also wrote 'Catoptrica' exploring the 'linear propagation of light, reflection and the use of mirrors' and the book 'Dioptra' for designing machines to determine distance. In this book he describes the modern day Theodolite and the Odometer. Not bad for 60AD. For more on everyday Roman machines read 'A Body of Doubt' - available from Amazon, just follow the links