Filed under automata

In Praise of Dr Katterfelto

Dr Katterfelto is one of the most fascinating characters from late 18th/early 19th century England. He was called the King of Puff, and his claims to have cured Londoners of the flu epidemic helped sell his remedies. He demonstrated solar microscopes, and danced either side of the divide between science and magic with a big … Continue reading

Justifying Georgian Luxury

In 1772 jeweller James Cox opened a Museum in London’s Spring Gardens which became the most popular show in the capital to the extent it became known as ‘The Museum’. It displayed ornate  jewelled automata in an opulent setting and charged a massive half a guinea (10/6d) entry. Fanny Burney mentioned it in her novel … Continue reading

Eric The Robot Rebooted

This is from Wednesday’s i paper, a thoroughly brilliant, bonkers kickstarter campaign. I am against fundraising for museums as they my allow or pave the way for more cutbacks, but if you want it you have to fund it.: In 1928, less than a decade after the term ‘robot’ was coined, a First World War … Continue reading

Clocks and Rituals

Clocks are seen as a source of control, but the early clocks in churches were huge – at times the dial was 2 metres wide, showing hours, days, lunar phases, planetary positions high and low tides, as well as automata and music with the bells striking. Clocks were not just for telling time, they employed … Continue reading

Time and Control

There seems to be a general assumption that clocks were invented to control people, as part of the industrialisation of the west, etc. but as ‘Shaping the Day’ by Paul Glennie & Nigel Thrift explain, the truth is far more complicated. Time keeping existed about 3,000 years ago, but it was in 2 forms. The … Continue reading

What is a clock?

This seems a stupid question. Even with our choices of dials, digital or talking, we know what they are. But mechanical time keeping began as alarm clocks, to wake priests for their services, or to announce services through the day, or for people to take lunch breaks. Sometimes the alarm would disturb a human who … Continue reading

Royal Censorship

The grand annual fairs were generally seen as places beyond official control, but it depends on who the audience was, and insulting the dead is never going to win friends. This is from John Evelyn’s diary of 1692: “15 Sep. there happen’d an Earthquake, which tho’ not so great as to do any harm in … Continue reading

Papist Fopperies

One of the biggest objections to Catholics during and after the Reformation was their use of human images, which is specifically banned in the Bible. This objection was waived centuries before to allow Christianity to spread, as the use of images is a powerful tool in evangelising. This is from John Evelyn’s Diary of 1672: … Continue reading