Charles Penniman with the Maillardet drawing Automaton - © 2009 Dug North
The New York Times has published a wonderful article on the writing and drawing automaton that resides at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Like so many of us, The Times has been inspired by the new movie Hugo, which features an automaton as a central part of the story. The automaton, in turn, was the original inspiration for the one in the movie. I was lucky enough to visit the museum and see the automaton first hand in the summer of 2009. Here is my blog post about seeing the Maillardet automaton in person.
Created around 1800 by Henri Maillardet, the clockwork automaton depicts a young boy. It is capable of rendering four drawings and writing three poems in a beautiful flowing script.
The Times article highlights some of the key players who were instrumental in bringing the machine back to life in recent years. Of particular note is Charles Penniman, who has studied and cared for the automaton for a long time. Author Brian Selznick, creator of the Hugo story, was also important in reviving interest in the machine and bringing in the mechanical genius of Andrew Baron back in 2007. Baron was able to restore the automaton, which had fallen out of working order over time. We owe a lot to these people and the others behind-the-scenes who have preserved this incredible machine.
Though it is not set into motion often, the automaton is on display at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. It remains a mechanical masterpieces and historical treasure.
Here is a link to the New York Times article on Maillardet's drawing automaton at the Franklin Institute.