extract : 56K or 512 K (with Windows Media Player)
(This extract explains the story of the creation of these automatons).
These automatons were capable to speak like real human beings.
This extract is coming from the film "The
This film and many others about automatons and androids
are available in english version on our online
automatons or androids were able to perform many acts. At this time, Abbot
Mical really managed to equip them with speech. Wanting to win the St Petersburg
annual competition which was suggested by the Imperial Academy of Sciences,
the churchman Abbot Mical made two extraordinary automatons : talking heads
which were able to pronounce a certain number of sentences.
Abbot Mical's talking heads,
two extraordinary automatons
Placed on a pedestal in a little theatre, a dialogue could
began between the two automatons :
-"The King gives peace to Europe.
-Peace crowns the King with glory.
-And peace makes the peoples happy.
-O adorable King, father of your peoples, their happiness shows
Europe the glory of your throne."
A report from the Academy of Sciences
was signed by Lavoisier and La Place, among others. It described the mechanism
of the creation of speech with the following terms : "The heads hid a
hollow box, whose different parts were linked by joints and inside which
the creator had arranged artificial glottises with different forms on
stretched membranes. The air getting through the glottises went and hit
the membranes that restored low-pitched, average and high-pitched tones.
A sort of very imperfect imitation of the human voice was the result of
The Academy concluded : "We think that the Academy
must applaud the efforts made by Abbot Mical : his machine is ingenious,
the work gets him being encouraged and this try, even if imperfect,
is still very worthy of the approval of the Academy."
The little theater and the two talking heads
two extraordinary automatons
A witness of the epoch also described the automatons:
"They are of natural height, very well achieved; they are golden-coloured,
that is in bad taste. We can see them next to each other on a
sort of little theatre, at the base of which the set of the mechanisms
can be seen. During the four sentences they successively articulate,
imitating the movement of the lips, they entirely mumble certain
words, the tone of their voice is husky and their articulation
slow. But despite all these failings, they tell enough things
so that and we cannot refuse to give them speech…"
Another witness completed their description
: "In the Temple street, in the Marais, there is a work of mechanics
that attracts all a crowd of experts… These are two heads made
of bronze, which talk and clearly pronounce entire sentences.
They are huge and their voice is superhuman…"
"This is not,
as you could think, the kind of work that you put here, made at the moment
and with chance; this is the fruit of work and genius. For thirty years,
Abbot Mical prepared the secret of his work; and if it was possible to follow
with the eye all the steps that led him here, if this skilful creator had
kept the tries, it would have been undoubtedly a gallery of well interesting
mechanics to travel over…"
"M. Mical placed two keyboards on his talking
heads. The first is a cylinder which only utters a determined
number of sentences, but on which the spaces and prosody of words
are correctly written. The other keyboard contains all the sounds
and the tones of the French language which are reduced to a small
number thanks to an ingenious and particular method of the creator.
With a little habit and skill, it would be possible to speak with
fingers, as easily as with the tongue, and it would be possible
to grant the faces language the speed, rests and all the appearance
of a tongue not driven on by passions. The foreigners will choose
the Henriade or the Télémaque and will make them recite from one
end to the other, by putting them onto the vocal keyboard as we
put opera scores onto the ordinary harpsichords."
"And we would not hear the quivering of our
elders' harsh articulations.
Abbot Mical's two talking heads
| Only the talking
heads can keep this honorable universality of the French language and reassure
it against the instability of the human things, and I dare say it. If we
develop them in Europe, these heads will become the dread of all these masters
of language, Swisses and Gascons, whose countries are all poisoned and which
distort our language among the peoples who love it."