A Brief History
On January 2, 1921, Czech playwright Karel Čapek premiered his classic play, R.U.R. in Hradec Králové, in what was then the First Czechoslovak Republic. The most important legacy of this famous play is the coining of the word, “Robot.” As used in the play, “robot” does not really mean the mechanical gizmo we think of today.
Prior to R.U.R., people used words such as “android” and “automaton” to describe what we think of as robots, but in the actual play, the “robots” were not the metal men the name evokes, but more along the line of what we today would call “replicants” or “androids,” artificially created human like, organic as opposed to mechanical, creatures made to serve humans.
Set in circa the year 2000, Čapek examined the moral dilemma about using sentient beings as slaves, although those beings were artificially created in a lab, a topic we may soon face with human clones.
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite fictional robot? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Capek, Karel. Capek Four Plays: R. U. R.; The Insect Play; The Makropulos Case; The White Plague. Methuen Drama, 1999.
Capek, Karel. War with the Newts. Kindle, 2022.
The featured image in this article, a scene of the third act designed by Bedřich Feuerstein (1892-1936), is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: The author died in 1936, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 80 years or fewer.
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