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The 500-year quest to make machines human

Ben Russell

    ISBN: 978 1 78551 068 7 (hb) 978 1 78551 067 0 (pb)

    Size: 254 x 229 mm (8¼ x 9¾ )

    Binding: Hardback and paperback

    Pages: 176

    In association with:

    Date published: March, 2017

    UK £35 /US $55


  • Published to accompany a major exhibition at The Science Museum, running from 8 February 2017 to 3 September 2017 and featuring over 100 robots, dating from the 16th century to the present day
  • Features essays from expert contributors, covering every aspect of our relationship with robots from the ancient world into the future


Humanoid robots are some of the most wondrous machines ever built. By imagining and reconstructing ourselves as robots, we are able to discover what amazing machines we are. But while mirroring our humanity, they also offer insights into how we have rationalised our technological ambitions, our sense of wonder at ourselves, and our position in a rapidly changing world.

Robots: the 500-year quest to make machines human explores the surprisingly long history of our obsession with creating machines in human form, from 16th-century mechanised monks to the ‘tin man’ robots of the 1950s and cutting-edge robots from today’s research labs. This ground-breaking book features an amazing array of robotic artefacts from around the world, including expertly crafted clockwork automata, uncanny robot actors, trumpet-playing humanoids and even a talking ‘receptionist’ head. Focusing on why robots exist rather than on how they work, the book avoids clichés about machines taking over the world and destroying humankind, and instead aims to reassure us that in future robots will continue to complement and enhance our human capabilities.

Author information

Ben Russell is Curator of Mechanical Engineering at the Science Museum, London. He is lead curator of the museum’s Robots exhibition, and has researched and curated a wide range of other exhibitions and permanent galleries, books and publications.