Archytas of Tarentum: the father of Robotics?

Archytas of Tarentum was a renowned mathematician and politician, but according to some ancient sources, he may also be the grandfather of robotics.


Sometime around 350 B.C., Archytas is said to have designed and built an air or steam-powered wooden dove that was capable of flapping its wings and flying through the air. No schematics or prototypes of the bird have survived to today, so modern scholars can only guess as to how it functioned. Most assume that the free flying dove described by the ancients was actually a hollow decoy filled with compressed air and connected to a pulley system. When the air was released, it may have caused the bird’s wings to flap and triggered a counterweight, which lifted the automaton from one perch to another and gave the impression of flight. While not as impressive as the ancient accounts—some of which claimed the bird could fly as far as 200 meters—such a device would still represent one of history’s earliest automatons.


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