Who is the Automaton?

This questions answer eludes me. Enter a response only if you know it for sure.

Eli Samaha

I remember a show on TDC that featured the machine. Supposedly, it is just a machine that uses math and statistics to play chess. But it’s most likely a magic trick. I don’t know if anyone knows for sure what is going on or who is/was inside the machine.

I seem to recall reading it was merely a hoax. There was someone inside making the moves.



Type Napoleon and Automaton in the space for the question.

Go to the bottom search engine (AltaVista) and open window. You should find what you’re looking for.

Synopsised by me from ‘The Complete Chess Addict’ by Fox and James, publisher Faber + Faber:

  • the first chess automaton was known as the Turk
  • it was designed by the Hungarian Wolfgang von Kempelman in 1769
  • Napoleon played the Turk in 1809
  • all these automatons had a man inside
  • Napoleon probably wasn’t a good player; historians think his published games are fakes

“The Turk” eventually made it to Barnum’s Museum, and was lost in the fire.

Edgar Allen Poe analyzed it, and came to the correct conclusion that there was a man inside. He even correctly identified the man. However, he was wrong about the mechanism; he thought it a simple puppet with a viewhole in the figure’s chest. In fact, it employed a complex pantograph mechanism to work the arm, and the operator sat in the chest under the board, watching the moves by 64 magnetic disks suspended in frames beneath the 64 squares.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams