The three Jaquet-Droz androids - The website of automatons, automata and androids.

1/ Video extract : 56 K or 512 K (with Windows Media Player)
(Introduction of the writer automaton created by the jaquet-Droz family).
This automaton is the forerunner of the computer.

2/ Video extract : 56 K or 512 K (with Windows Media Player)
(Introduction of the draftsman automaton created by the jaquet-Droz family).
This automaton makes various drawings.

3/ Video extract : 56 K or 512 K (with Windows Media Player)
(Introduction of the female musician android created by the jaquet-Droz family).
This automaton plays 8 different tunes

These extracts are coming from the film "The Jaquet-Droz androids".
This film and many others about automatons and anroids
are available in english version on our online shop.

The three most beautiful androids ever created since 1909, and which still exist today, are exhibited in the Museum of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Built from 1770 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis, and several skilful workers, the androids were showed to the audience from La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1774.
Having a natural size and carrying out real and complex acts, they remind one of Vaucanson's 3 masterpieces. The success of the three androids was so tremendous that, as a contemporary said: "people went there as they went to a pilgrimage. Everyday the garden and the main road were occupied by coaches during all day."
The three Jaquet-Droz androids - The website of automatons
The three Jaquet-Droz androids
Photo : Museum of Art and History in Neuchâtel
Pierre Jaquet-Droz the creator of the first android - The website of automatons
Pierre Jaquet-Droz
the creator of the first android

Coming from a well-off family in Neuchâtel, Pierre Jaquet-Droz was particularly interested in the science of mechanics applied to watchmaking. In addition to that, his scientific culture was superior to the one of the artisans in his circle, so that Pierre Jaquet-Droz made a first automaton : a three-year old child, able to write a little text with a goose feather.

That time's leaflet of parade described the android : "About 70 cm high, a goose feather in the hand, sitting in front of a little mahogany table, his eyes and head are mobile.

The writer, the first android - The website of automatons
"The writer, the first android"
Photo : Jean-J. Luder
As soon as the mechanism starts up, he dips the feather into the ink, shakes it twice, puts his hand at the top of the page and stops. A lever must be then pressed on in order to make him write, while he's observing the up and downstrokes. He respects the spaces, starts on the next line, puts a full stop and stops writing.
The writer, the first android - The website of automatons
"The writer, the first android"
Photo : Jean-J. Luder

The writer android is at work - The website of automatons
The writer is at work.
Photo : Jean-J.Luder
A few writings by the writer android - The website of automatons
A few writings by the writer android
made by Pierre Jaquet-Droz"
Flash animation
Some authors explain that this automaton is a forerunner of the computers. This statement is certainly justified since the machine is composed of a "program" and a "memory"The "program"is a wheel which makes it possible to choose the words the android is to write, and the "memory", which is made up by a set of cams, make it possible to form the letters.
Detail of the writer android - The website of automatons
Detail of "The writer"
Photo : Jean-J.Luder

The wheel of program
(Mechanism of the writer android
made by Pierre Jaquet-Droz)
Video extract 56 K
(Windows media player)


Detail of the wheel
(Mechanism of the writer android
made by Pierre Jaquet-Droz)
Video extract 500 K
(Windows media player)

"The second figure portrays a two or three-year old child, sat on a stool, and drawing different little subjects on a desk situated in front of him.
The draftsman is an android created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son - The website of automatons
The "draftsman"is an android created
by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son
Photo : Jean-J. Luder
This automaton really makes various drawings :
first, it sketches the first features by observing the up and down strokes and then by observing the shadows. Finally, he touches up and corrects its work.
The draftsman was created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son - The website of automatons
The "draftsman"is at work
The android was created
by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son
Photo : Jean-J. Luder
Interior mechanism of the drafstman android - The website of automatons
Interior mechanism of the draftsman
Photo : Jean-J.Luder

For that purpose, he spreads its hand from time to time, so as to see more clearly what it is doing. The various movements of the eyes and the hand exactly imitate nature."

Moreover, the android sometimes blows on its drawing in order to remove the pencil's dust.

The draftsman android is drawing his dog - The website of automatons
The draftsman android is drawing
his dog
Photo : Jean-J.Luder
Video extract 56 K
Video extract 500 K
(Windows media player)
Mainly made by Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz and assisted by the skilful technician Jean Frédéric Leschot, it is today able to make 4 different drawings : "The butterfly led by love", "My doggie", "Louis XV profile" and "Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette profiles".
The drawings made by the draftsman android - The website of automatons
The drawings made by the draftsman android
Flash animation : "My doggie", "Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette", "Louis XV"

Eventually, the third android is a female musician, made mostly by Henri-Louis who studied music.

"This automaton, whose body, head, eyes, arms and fingers have various natural movements, plays itself five different music pieces on an independent organ, with much precision : its head and its eyes are mobile in all directions, so it alternately looks at the music and its fingers. At the end of each tone, it curtseys to the audience, bowing its body and nodding its head. Its throat alternately lifts up and down regularly, so that the spectators believe they can see it breathing."

The musician by Jaquet-Droz is the only one in the three first automatons able to produce music. Indeed, the majority of automatons created after that time played music which had one characteristic :

The musician android was created by Henry-Louis - The website of automatons
The musician android was created by Henry-Louis
Photo : Jean-J. Luder
Detail of the musician android - The website of automatons
Detail of the musician android
Photo : Jean-J Luder
it consisted in making a set of steel fingers which vibrates in a keyboard or in a music box, and this system was invented in 1776 by Antoine Favre from Geneva. But Jean-Philippe Matiatek, an Hungarian settled in La Chauds-de-Fonds, had created the organ, with flutes, bellows, guides and so far…that the musician played.
The hand of the musician android - The website of automatons
When the machine is
the equal of man
Photo Jean-J. Luder
The musician android playing with his little organ - The website of automatons
The musician android playing
with his little organ
Photo : Jean-J.Luder
Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz, influenced by the success of the three first automatons, built two copies of the writer and the draughtsman, and one copy of the musician.
The mechanism of the musician android - The website of automatons
The mechanism of the musician android
Photo : Jean-J.Luder
Actually, the first two automatons made at the same time writings and drawings. In technical terms, these androids were less complicated in technical terms than the originals and could not allow programmable inscriptions or drawings.
The drawings made by the automatons were more detailed, but did not respect the up and downstrokes. Among these ones, we can cite:
"George, Prince of Wales" in which the king can be seen standing, with the elbow put on the back of his horse,
"A dog",
"George III of England" sat on his throne and two drawings showing Chinese characters, among them
"the goddess Koua-nin and a marine genius".
Drawings made by other drawer automatons - The website of automatons
Drawings made by other drawer automatons created by the Jaquet-Droz

Concerning the copy of the musician, this complete description written by David Brewster was found in the Encyclopedia of Edinburgh in 1830 : "The automaton is a very beautiful woman sat in front of a piano forte on which she plays 18 different tunes. Regardless of the music that is produced by the pressure of her fingers onto the keys, all her movements are elegant and graceful. They imitate life so well that, even from a very close view, it can seem to be an illusion."

"When it is about to begin a tune, the musician nods nicely, so as to greet the members of the audience. She may want to wait for a while before starting to play. Her breast lifts and the young woman moves her eyes as naturally as she is following her fingers on the keys, as if they were really livened up. The hands play the natural notes whereas the flats and the sharps are produced by the pedals operated by the feet."

"It must be noticed that the instrument has the appearance of a piano but is in reality an organ, whose bellows are operated by certain parts of the mechanism."

"As for the android's movements, they are stopped by six big springs enabling it to perform for a whole hour. The various parts of this mechanism are extremely complicated and superbly combined, in view of the sought aim. Twenty five transmissions produce the different movements of the body, in the middle and in the various parts of the automaton. A brass wheel acts as a regulator of the set."

"The figure is built in such a way that it can be moved easily, and it can be opened in its median part. It is locked away in a big display cabinet and leans on a mahogany pedestal and which contains the main movement, as well as it is showed by the artist."

In "The world of automatons" (Le monde des automates), Alfred Chapuis notices that "it is amazing that an automaton of this value was no longer mentionned… It is also very likely that she was a member of the much famous "American Museum".

The famous american museum - The website of automatons
The famous american museum
Indeed, Barnum writes in his Memoirs :
"Among the 100.000 curiosities, there was an infinity of musician automatons, mechanics and moving scenes, made in Paris and Geneva". So, the beautiful Roxlane
(the musician) probably shared the fate of her brother the writer-draughtsman, at the time of the fire of the
"American museum" in 1865.

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