1915 – The Radium Destroyer – Hugo Gernsback (American)


November, 1915
Front cover -"THE RADIUM DESTROYER" from a painting by Thomas H. Wrenn. (typo- actually Thomas N. Wrenn)
Warfare of the Future
The Radium Destroyer
THE European War has clearly demonstrated what a tremendous part modern science plays in the offense as well as in the defense of the contending armies. It has often been said during the past twelve months that this is not a war so much of men as of machines. Nothing could be truer. In fact, it might be said that this is a war of infernal machines against more diabolical machines.
It has been stated editorially in this journal that there will be war always, or at least till we arrive at a period when some scientific genius (or shall be call him devil?) invents a machine which at one stroke is capable of annihilating one or several army corps. When that time arrives, soldiers, no matter how courageous, will think a long time before they will offer themselves to be slaughtered by the hundred thousand.
In the meantime, probably for many generations to come, the war death-dance will go on without any doubt whatsoever. Humanity simply has not advanced to such a state where disarmament is possible. Our real civilization only dates back less than 100 years, and as human progress is extremely slow, it may take a thousand years and more before humans will learn how to trust each other implicitly. As long as we require policemen and jails to keep us out of mischief, we are not able to take care of ourselves and we cannot call ourselves emancipated—we are still held in bondage by the brute in ourselves, which threatens to break out at any opportune moment, as is witnessed in the present war.
Therefore, the pacificists, particularly those in our country who think that this is the "last war" and who go around shouting peace at any price, are not only a sorry lot, but they are cheerfully oblivious of the teachings of history as well as of human evolution.
These good people would shout murder if you dared suggest to them to dismiss at once all policemen and patrolmen of their home town, but they would trust a strange nation implicitly from making war on this country, simply because that nation pledged itself on a piece of paper not to make war
If the present war is ghastly with its poison shells, its deadly chlorine gas, its bomb-throwing aeroplanes, its fire-spraying guns, its murderous machine guns, etc., what can we expect of the wars of the future?
What will happen when the scientists of a hundred years hence begin making war on each other?
Suppose that by that time our scientists have solved the puzzle of the atom and have succeeded in liberating its prodigous forces. Imagine that at that time one atom can be disintegrated at will, instantly into another, what will happen? The results will simply be overwhelmingly astounding and almost incomprehensible to our present minds.
It has been calculated that if we could liberate the latent energy at present locked up in a copper one cent piece we would be enabled to propel a train with 50 freight cars over a distance of 600 miles!
Now, then, bearing this in mind, let us imagine that 100 years hence some scientist invents a means to unlock atomic forces, and how to control them. We can see him stepping to the throne of his future War Lord (if such still exist then), addressing him in this fashion: "My Lord, with the means of my invention the world is yours; will you make yourself the first Master of this Planet?"
The War Lord promptly asks for a secret demonstration of the new "Atomic Gun," and what he sees intoxicates his imagination to such a degree that he decides to make war on the entire world as soon as his generals have assured him that enough atomic guns have been manufactured to make success certain. And one beautiful spring morning our War Lord finds a perfectly logical pretext to make war on a few nations, and the latest war dance is on.
Within a few hours the first atomic gun. popularly known as the "Radium Destroyer, has crossed the enemy's frontier.
The Radium Destroyer is mounted on fast moving auto trucks and is controlled entirely by Radio energy. No man is within a mile of the Destroyer—it is too dangerous to be near it when in action. A young lieutenant with phones clapped over his head and who follows the Destroyer in the "Control Auto," and who gets his own orders from the General Staff by Wireless, guides each and every motion of the distant Radium Destroyer simply by moving certain keys and switches in front of him.
Soon his Destroyer has arrived in front of the enemy's first line of concreted steel trenches, protecting the land behind them. In front of the trenches the ground has been purposely cut up to impede the progress of ordinary vehicles. The General Staff, of course, knew this, and built the Destroyer accordingly. Our friend the lieutenant stops the Destroyer's truck and moves a lever. Immediately the Destroyer hops from the truck and begins to jump with amazing speed over the cutup ground, in grasshopper fashion. A few hundred feet from the well-concealed concrete trenches the Destroyer is made to halt. Our lieutenant moves a few switches, turns a knob and presses a key—then lot the inferno begins.
A solid green "Radium-K" emanation ray bursts from the top of the Destroyer and hits the concreted steel trench. Our front cover gives but a faint idea of what happens. The Radium-K emanation has the property of setting off spontaneously the dormant energy of the Atom of any element it encounters except lead. So when the ray hits the trench it went up in dust, concrete, steel, men and guns behind it, everything. After spraying the trench lengthwise for a few minutes it is gone completely. Only a dense cloud of vapor hanging in the air remains.
The fleet of Radium Destroyers now enters through the gap, destroying everything in their path. No gun can hit the Radium Destroyer for ere the gun can get the proper range, the Radium-K Ray has hit the gun or the ground below it and has sent it up in vapor, including the men behind it. As a demonstration, the Commanding General asks that the first town encountered, a city of 300,000 souls, be vacated within three hours. The terrorized inhabitants are forced to comply with the request, whereupon a dozen Destroyers line up on the hills and spray the unlucky city with their fearful rays. Within five minutes the entire city, houses, churches, bridges, parks and everything else have gone up in a titanic Vapor cloud; only a vast crater in the ground where the thriving city one stood remains.
After this demonstration the enemy sues for peace; resistance would be folly. The country is conquered. Within a fort night the War Lord has conquered the entire world and has proclaimed himself as the First Planet Emperor.
What happens afterwards when the secret of the Radium Destroyer is discovered by the War Lord's enemies is another chapter, so we will desist !
The above may read very fantastical and extremely fanciful. It is, however, not only very possible but highly probable. Modern Science knows not the word Impossible.

See other early Hopping and Walking Machines here.

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1910 – The Electric Vampire – F. H. Power (British)


The Electric Vampire
By F. H. Power
Illustrated by Philip Baynes
(This short story appeared in The London Magazine of October 1910 with the accompanying Editor's note: 'The following short story, though of course but a figment of the imagination, is yet founded on fact. Over seventy years ago (in 1836, to be precise), a Mr Crosse astonished the British Association by reading a paper on electro-crystalisation, in which he described how he obtained living electrical insects, called acari, by artificial means — namely, by a voltaic battery, certain acids, and red oxide of iron. His experiments were closely watched by the leading scientists of the day, but Crosse himself gave them up, owing to the excited attitude of a section of the public, who assailed him with much bitterness for carrying out experiments which they considered it a "crime" to make.')


I was at breakfast when the note reached me. 'My dear Charles,' it ran — 'I shall be glad if you can come round to my place tonight, as I have something to show you, which I think will interest you. I have also asked Vane.'
It did not take a moment for me to make up my mind to go. Dr Vane and I often spent an evening at George Vickers's house. We were bachelors, and as we were all fond of things scientific, the time passed very pleasantly — so pleasantly that very often it was two or three o'clock in the morning before he saw us off his premises.
During the day I found myself speculating as to what our friend intended to show us. I recalled some of the weird and fascinating electrical experiments he had performed in his laboratory. 'I bet it's another experiment with electricity,' I said to myself, but I was only partly correct.
I arrived at the house about six o'clock, and found Vane had already arrived, and, as usual, had taken the easiest armchair in which to rest his lean body. Our host, with his ruddy, smiling face, stood with his back to the fireplace.
'I'm glad you have come, Charlie,' he said. You will be able to relieve me from that living mark of interrogation.' And he nodded towards the doctor, who sat twirling an imaginary moustache.
'Well, why can't he indicate what he has dragged us round here for?' the doctor asked plaintively. 'And fancy having as an excuse that he doesn't want to spoil my appetite for dinner!'
'Eh, what?' I ejaculated.
'Oh, now you are going to start. For goodness' sake find something else to talk about until we have had something to eat,' said Vickers, and he suggested aeroplanes.
We let him have his own way, and very soon after sat down to dinner. Our conversation during the meal would have been dry to many, but it was after our own hearts, and never flagged for a moment. The doctor's speciality was biology. My hobby is chemistry, and it was through an explosion which nearly blinded me that I first made his acquaintance, and subsequently introduced him to George Vickers.
At last George leaned back in his chair, and, lighting a cigar, said:
'You fellows, of course, want to know what on earth I am keeping up my sleeve. Before I show you, I want you to listen to this short extract from a series of lectures given by a man named Noad, and published in 1844.'
He fetched the book, and read:
"It was in the course of his experiments in electro-crystalisation that that extraordinary insect about which so much public curiosity has been expended, was first noticed by Mr Crosse." '
Here Vickers looked up from the volume, and remarked:
'Mr Crosse I might say, was a gentleman who stood foremost as one of the individuals in this country who have distinguished themselves by their researches in atmospheric electricity.'
He turned to the book again:
"In justice to this talented individual, who was most shamefully and absurdly assailed by some ignorant people on account of this insect, and who underwent much calumny and misrepresentation in consequence of experiments 'which in this nineteenth century it seems a crime to have made,' I shall give a detailed account of that experiment in which the Acarus first made its appearance.
'Here follows,' said George, a minute description of the apparatus Crosse used. Briefly a basin containing practically a saturated solution of soluble silica is placed in a funnel, and a piece of flannel hangs over the side of the basin and acts as a syphon. The liquid falls in drops on a piece of porous red oxide of iron from Vesuvius, kept constantly electrified by a voltaic battery.'
Again he turned to the book and read:
' "On the fourteenth day from the commencement of the experiment, Mr Crosse observed through a lens a few small whitish excrescences or nipples projecting from about the middle of the electrified iron, and nearly under the dropping of the fluid above. On the eighteenth day these projections enlarged, and seven or eight filaments, each of them longer than the excrescence from which it grew, made their appearance on each of the nipples. On the twenty-second day, these appearances were more elevated and distinct; and on the twenty-sixth day each figure assumed the form of a perfect insect standing erect on a few bristles which formed its tail. Till this period Mr Crosse had no notion that these appearances were any other than an incipient mineral formation, but it was not until the twenty-eighth day, when he plainly perceived these little creatures move their legs, that he felt any surprise. In a few days they separated themselves from the stone, and moved about at pleasure. They appeared to feed by suction." … Mr Crosse adds: "I have never ventured an opinion as to the cause of their birth; and for a very good reason — I was unable to form one." '
Vickers shut the book up.
'There's a lot more about it, but I think I have read all that is necessary. If either of you would like some more information on those early experiments, you will find it in the "Transactions of the Electrical Society".'
There was silence whilst we puffed at our cigars. At length, Dr Vane said:
'I was under the impression that subsequent experimentalists were not so successful as Mr Crosse ?' Vickers smiled enigmatically.
'If you will just come this way, I fancy I shall be able to prove to you that at least one other experimentalist has been fairly successful.' And beckoned us to follow him.
I had often been in his laboratory, but to my surprise he led us to a room at the top of the house, and, as he inserted the key, drew our attention to the Yale lock.
'I rely on you chaps to keep to yourselves what I am going to show you, because I am preparing a paper on this experiment, and I want to surprise 'em,' he said, and pushed the door open.
Dr Vane, with an eager look on his face, entered boldly. I followed close behind, and I remembered wondering why George, usually so unemotional, appeared to be in a state of suppressed excitement.

And then I saw what it was. May I, a man, be forgiven if I trembled from head to foot!
On a low plain wood table was a sheet of some metal about four feet square. From a cistern fixed above, and pierced by many minute holes, some liquid dropped on the slab incessantly. But these things I barely noticed, for my attention was riveted to the centre of that slab, on which sprawled a creature which I can only liken to an immense spider, its length being about two feet.
Two legs appeared from behind each side of the head, and four longer ones — they must have been nearly as long as the body — at the back. Projecting from its head, where you would expect to find the mouth, was a trunk-like object which went in and out like the trunk of a fly. All over the body about an inch apart long filaments stood out. Its colour was drab, and it was apparently covered with slime. Its eyes were like the eyes of an owl, and never blinked.
We stared at the fearsome object in dead silence.
Vickers was the first to speak.
'Pretty, isn't it?' he said, with a laugh, but the laugh seemed strangely out of place.
I glanced at the doctor. His hands were clenched, and his eyes so wide open that the whites could be seen all round.
'My God, George, what is that thing?' he whispered.
'That, my dear doctor, is the result of years of experimenting. It first became visible to the naked eye five years ago today, but it does not appear to have grown during the last six months. It vindicates Crosse absolutely. Don't you think it is superb ?'
'Superb? Oh, yes, it's superb!' said the doctor. He kept muttering to himself as he walked round the table, glaring at the thing on it, but from the few words I caught he was not calling it superb or anything like it.
At last his love of biology overcame his repugnance.
'I should like to feel one of those filaments,' he said, and stretched out his hand.
Like a flash of lightning Vickers seized his wrist, and his face was the colour of chalk. Dr Vane looked astonished and hurt.
'I am sorry, doctor, but I forgot to tell you it can give a terrific electric shock,' he said apologetically.
Vane looked somewhat scared, but his interest was plainly increased.
'Then it is some sort of relation to the Gymnotus, or electric eel of Venezuela?' he asked.
'Or the Torpedo of the Mediterranean,' I suggested. Vickers shrugged his shoulders.
'I only know that poor old Tippoo' — a splendid collie and great favourite of us all — 'happened to accompany me to this room yesterday, and poked his nose a bit too near, when he suddenly toppled over dead as a doornail. He was horribly burnt down one side.'
Our friend spoke quietly, but it was easy to see he was deeply affected as he related the tragedy.
'That must have startled you,' I said.
'Well, no, I cannot say it was a surprise. I received a very nasty shock when it was quite small — perhaps I was not handling it as carefully as I might have. But' — here he turned to that monstrous creature, and actually passed his hand down one of its hairy legs — ' but you know who feeds you, don't you, my beauty ?'
The thing evidently did know, for that trunk-like object went in and out rapidly. And I might say here that was the only movement we noticed in it that evening.
The startled look on our faces seemed to amuse Vickers. 'It's all right; it knows me. I have watched it grow day by day, and — '
Here the doctor cut in with a question.
'What do you feed the brute on?' he asked.
Vickers hesitated a moment, and looked at us. Then he walked to the other side of the room, and opened a box which had airholes pierced in it.
'The trunk,' he explained, 'is fitted with two small pointed teeth at the end, and the blood of the victim is gradually sucked out.' He anticipated our next question. 'No. It does not kill it first,' he said, and shut the lid.
The box contained live mice.
It was exactly ten days later that I was sitting with Vane in his study over a game of chess. At least, we were supposed to be playing chess. As a matter of fact, the doctor was again telling me what he thought of our friend's experiment, and the game had languished.
'I tell you it's the greatest discovery ever made — the greatest!' And his fist thumped the table, making the pieces on the board dance again. His eyes shone with excitement, but this died away as his thoughts travelled in a different channel. 'But of all the ugly things God every created —'
He stopped abruptly.
'Do you know,' he continued presently, 'that Vickers's interesting pet belongs to the family of mites — ticks, as they are popularly called — notwithstanding its extraordinary size? All these creatures are furnished with suckers through which they can draw the juices of the animals on which they are parasitic, and in tropical countries — well, I will just say they are considerably more than annoying, and leave the rest to your imagination. They are small and flat when they first settle themselves on their victim, but they gradually swell and redden, until at last, when they are fully gorged, they are as large as broad-beans, and as easily crushed as ripe gooseberries.
'It seems to me from its mode of formation that George has discovered the link between the inorganic world and the world of life — the link which is indispensable to a complete scheme of evolution; but the great objection to this idea is the creature's obvious complexity —'
My further remarks were interrupted by a knock at the door, and the doctor's maid Emily entered.
'Mr Vickers's housekeeper would like to speak to you, sir.'
I heard Vane's 'Ah!' although it was said very softly. I remember my heart was beating at a ridiculous rate, and I tried hard to calm myself as I reflected that probably the old lady had come about her 'screws,' as she called her rheumatism, and which I knew had been troubling her more than usual.
But Dr Vane went down the two flights of stairs to his surgery two steps at a time. At the door he turned round and simply nodded to me, and we entered together.
Mrs Jones, Vickers's housekeeper, was waiting, with her veil pushed up until it looked like a black bandage across her forehead.
'Is it Mr Vickers?' Vane asked abruptly.
Mrs Jones never spoke quickly, and she did not intend to be hurried that day. Her reply came slowly, so deliberately that I thought my supply of patience would ebb away long before that simple question was answered.
' Well, sir, I don't know as there is anything the matter with Mr Vickers, but he ain't had a bite since one o'clock yesterday, and yet I feel certain as he is in the house. He went upstairs — '
I think Mrs Jones had reason to look astonished, for Dr Vane, noted for his precise ways and highly professional manner, dashed to the house-telephone and shouted into the mouthpiece : Tell John to bring the car round at once ! You understand? He is not to delay one moment!' Then he turned to the housekeeper, who stood with her mouth half open, and said rapidly: 'You will come with us, and give us further particulars on the road.'
What had happened? I dreaded to think of what that upstairs room would reveal to us. The doctor and I looked at each other. Then he placed his hand on my arm.
'Charlie,' he whispered, 'you can depend on it George has got foul of that monster. I have felt something would happen, ever since he showed it to us, and it looks very much as if that something has happened.'
'I pray God we shall not be too late!' I said fervently, but I thought of that Thing, with the never-winking eyes, and shuddered.
Have you a revolver?' I asked.
He nodded, and left the surgery.
A few moments later the motor arrived. We bundled Mrs Jones in; and as Vane gave the chauffeur the address, he added: ' Drive like hell!' I shall not forget that ride in a hurry, and I am quite sure Mrs Jones won't. We plied her with questions, but her replies were so incoherent we soon gave it up. She sat with bulging eyes, one hand clutching the side of the car, the other my coat, and every time it bumped over an obstacle she shrieked. More than once I bawled into her ear: 'It's all right!' but I might have saved my breath, for she made no sort of variation on her terror-stricken cry : 'Stop it! Stop it!'
A scared-looking maid let us in. We brushed past her, and went straight upstairs. Arriving at the door of that room, we stopped and listened, but could detect not the slightest sound. We tried the door — it was locked. So, after all that tearing hurry we were met by a well-built door, and Vickers had the key. We looked at each other in despair, but with Dr Vane it lasted but a moment, and was succeeded by a look of grim determination.
'He is in there, and we have got to get to him,' he said decisively.
'I'll fetch a locksmith: I think that will turn out to be the quickest way out of the difficulty,' I said, and was on the point of moving off when the doctor whispered excitedly: 'Wait! Listen! He is speaking!'
I tiptoed back to the door, and listened with loudly beating heart, but hardly breathing: there was silence, a long silence, then I heard a voice, but what it said I could not distinguish. It seemed to come from afar off, like a voice on a telephone that had been badly connected up. Vane shook his head.
'Speak up, old man! We can't hear you!' he shouted.
Again we listened, and this time we could just make out the words … key … false … bottom … desk,' then all was quiet again.
'Which drawer, and how do you open it ?' the doctor asked loudly. But not another sound came from the room, although he repeated the question twice.
Vane turned to me. 'That's a piece of luck. I wonder why he had two keys made? Well, we have got to find that duplicate, quick,' he said.
We rapidly made our way to Vickers's study, where we knew there was a roller-top desk. We thanked Heaven when we found the door open, and also the desk. It was a beautiful piece of furniture, and the top was rolled back, showing the row of pigeon-holes and small drawers. Tucked in one of the pigeon-holes was a bunch of keys.
'Now, where the dickens is the drawer with the false bottom?' said Vane, and he hurriedly tried to find the keys which fitted the drawers.
Now, investigations of this sort cannot be hurried, and, swearing softly, he demonstrated this fact completely. The swearing grew louder and louder, till, for a moment, I lost sight of the object of the search in amazement at the extent of his vocabulary.
I relieved him of the bunch when he had opened half the drawers. Eventually we unlocked the lot, but although we quickly took a large number of measurements, we could not find the slightest indication of a false bottom to any of them.
Our nerves were in a high state of tension before we entered the study; by this time, mine were in a deplorable condition. The doctor's face was lined with anxiety.
Silently he handed me a poker, and from the wall took down an old Malay kris, which did duty for an ornament.
'You take the right side of the desk; I'll take the other,' I said.
We found the precious key, but the desk —
Again we were at the door upstairs, and, although I turned the lock, I dreaded pushing it open. The whole business was so uncanny. Was that horrible creature prowling about the room ready to rush at us the moment we entered? How should we find Vickers?
I glanced at Vane. His jaw was set, and he had taken the revolver out of his pocket. The only sounds we could hear were some carts rumbling along the roadway, and the whistling from a train a long way off.
But the business in hand was very real and desperately urgent, and I do not think anyone would have noticed any hesitancy in pushing that door open; yet the next moment we were suddenly struck motionless as a low whisper reached us: 'For God's sake, move as quietly as you can!' We entered on tiptoe.
There are some scenes which are stamped on the memory in such a way that they are never forgotten. Years after they can be called to the eye of the mind with wonderful fidelity to detail. The scene which met us was such a one.
A broad beam from the setting sun came through the bottom of one of the windows, where the blind had not been completely drawn, and we saw. Very plainly, too, for the beam fell straight on it.
Vickers lay stretched on his back in the middle of the room, with that grisly Thing straddled across his chest, its sucker buried in his throat. His face and lips were quite bloodless. His eyes were closed, and I could detect no sort of movement.
I looked at Vane. His brows were contracted till they almost met, and his breath came and went through his teeth with a little hissing noise. I reminded him of the revolver ready cocked in his hand.
'Don't be a fool!' he said irritably. 'Get some brandy, and, for Heaven's sake, look slippy!'
When I returned he had his fingers on the poor fellow's wrist, and the frown was still on his face, but the revolver was on the box which was pierced with airholes.
I suppose I must have looked puzzled. Vane spoke impatiently, yet his voice was hardly above a whisper.
'Look here: what guarantee is there I should kill this vampire before it had time to discharge its deadly current through George's body ? You know as well as I do that creatures low down in the scale of creation take a lot of killing. We can't risk it, and I am sure we can't risk hauling it off.'
The brandy was doing its work, and Vickers must have heard some of our conversation, because his eyes opened, and he said, with a ghost of a smile: 'Have you ever seen a leech applied, Charlie ?'
I started violently.
'Good heavens! you don't mean to say Vane and I have to hang about with our hands in our pockets doing nothing except speculating whether — whether —'
' Whether I shall be able to stand the drain till it shifts ?' Vickers smiled again as he took the words out of my mouth.
The thought was intolerable; surely there must be some way!
For hours Vane sat waiting. I also was waiting, but on a couch in another room, getting over the effects of a little blood transfusion. 'It is very necessary,' Vane had said, as he skilfully made the arrangements, so skilfully that the creature was not disturbed. The improved appearance of poor George was my reward.
Wearied in mind and body I fell asleep, and dreamed dreams of men and women I knew, but I gazed at them with horror, for they all had drawn, blanched faces, with great staring eyes, and something with its body across their chests and with head buried at their throats, and they beseeched me by all I held sacred to take it from them, but I was bound by invisible bands. How shall I tell of my agony of mind? I woke with a start, and in a terrible perspiration, and found the doctor looking at me, hollow-eyed and unshaved.
'Nightmare?' he asked. 'Where did you want to go, and who wouldn't let you ? Steady, steady,' he added, as 1 jumped up and swayed, owing to the floor apparently moving about. As he pointed out, transfusion has no great tendency to make things appear as steady as rocks.
'Has the thing moved?' I asked.
'No,' he answered laconically.
We looked at each other in silence. I was hoping he would guess my next question, but I had to ask it.
'How is George ?'
'Alive.' And I knew from the way he said it that he had told me simply the bare truth and that was all. There was another long silence.
'Oh! can't we do something?' I cried despairingly.
'Yes,' replied Vane. 'I am going to do something if that vampire does not move in ten minutes. The point has been reached when the risk is negligible, inasmuch as if it does not move now there will be no necessity of doing anything. I am going to shoot it.'
We returned to that chamber of horrors. Poor Vickers looked ghastly, and it did not require a trained eye to see that the end was not far off.
I took my watch out. 'Give it five minutes,' muttered Vane; and I sat on the box with the airholes, glancing first at the deathlike face of Vickers, then at Vane's set features as he stood stroking his unshaven chin, gazing at our friend.
'Time's up,' I said.
The doctor walked gently till he was opposite the creature's head, and dropped on one knee, then lowered the revolver till it was within six inches of its head. His finger was on the trigger when a strange thing occurred: the bloated monster suddenly withdrew its sucker and glared at him as if it knew that its hour of death had arrived. I thought Vane was fascinated by those baleful eyes, for he did not stir as the creature commenced to move towards him.
'Look out!' I shouted, and he sprang back. None too soon, for the thing rushed at him with incredible swiftness.

Then I had an opportunity of witnessing Vane's beautiful nerve, for not until the last trailing filament had left Vickers did he fire. I saw his finger press the trigger. The next instant a terrific report shook the building, and my hands flew up to my eyes to shut out that terrible blinding flash. Women's screams, mingled with noises as if giant hands were tearing the house to pieces, floated up from below.
The sound of someone groaning made me rouse myself.
Vane lay face downwards in an immense pool of blood, his head hanging over a ragged hole in the floor. I thanked Heaven fervently when I found that he had only been stunned by the vast charge of static electricity the creature had suddenly let loose. Like a flash of lightning the charge had struck the floor, bursting it open, then torn its way through the house.
We turned to Vickers. Vane felt his pulse.
'I will save him,' he said. And he did.

The Man who was Frankenstein by Peter Haining, 1979. A book about Andrew Crosse and his electrical experiments around 1830's.

See the timeline on Cyborgs and Bionics here.

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1870 – Artificial Man – Orin Vasta (Swedish)


Source: The Daily Telegraph Harrisburg, PA.29 Dec 1870
A NEW ADAM IN SWEDEN. Curious Story from a Swedish Paper—
How a Man was Made—What a New Being Thought and Felt—How He Acquired Ideas, etc., etc., etc.
The New York World says: A Swedish paper makes the seemingly preposterous assertion that a scientific gentleman of Stockholm has succeeded in fabricating a man—not a "steam man," nor a man who goes by clock-work or springs, but a veritable man—whose flesh is such as is common to the genus homo, whose bones are filled with true marrow; who, if he does not think, talks as if he did; whose hair and nails grow; who breathes, lives, moves, and has his being, and in all particulars is such as he would have been had he been turned out in nature's workshop, and not in that of Orin Vasta. To be sure there are necessarily minor points of difference between this product of assisted nature and the ordinary products of unassisted nature. The being—for it is hardly right to call him a man, after all—has, of course, no recollections of childhood, or even of his brother, "the insensible rock and sluggish clod," with whom, twenty years ago, he was intimately acquainted. He has no past extending further back than three years, and as little understands the process of his fabrication as does the new-born child, and he came into conscious existence in a second, or even less, by a period corresponding with the rate at which the nerve force travels. He was born a full man, with a brain pan as capable of producing mature thought when material for thinking was supplied, as is an ordinary man of 25 years of age It took him only six months to learn to speak the Swedish language with tolerable ease, and then he was able to tell the impression made upon him by his existence, so accurate was his memory. By no means would we vouch for the truth of all this, but the story is good enough to be repeated.
The way in which the monster was constructed is peculiar. Frankenstein was absolutely nothing compared with him. He was not made of wood and iron, but of various pieces of dead human bodies, carefully selected, preserved, prepared and adjusted in such a way that after the head was put on the shoulders, and the two pieces of spinal column joined at the neck, in an instant the nervous machinery acted, the heart palpitated, the lungs inhaled and exhaled air, the eyes opened, color came into the hitherto livid face, and all the processes of life began; the theory of this being that, as no two bodies are ever in actual contact, the molecules of man's body are not. Vital processes do not, therefore, need actual contact of particles in which they appear, there is, therefore, no necessary interrelation between them, and if by compression they can be forced to within the same distances from each other which they have in life, life must ensue when, by connecting the spinal column with the brain, transmission of nerve force becomes possible.
Hereditary transmission of mental and physical qualities is impossible in a being thus constructed; for, as there is no germ, so there is no development of it; the being is but a composition of what is commonly called "dead matter." To all intents and purposes such a being is the primitive man of whom the world has heard so much, and therefore is fine material for psychological study.
After twenty years passed in hitherto fruitless experiments, it may be believed that Orin Vasta was excited when, all things prepared for the calling into being of a monster, he proceeded with the experimentum crucis of joining the brain and the spinal marrow. To say that he was appalled by what he instantly saw is not to say an incredible thing, and, in very fright he fell to the floor, whereupon the newly created being did the same thing; but, when Orin arose, his creature lay still, for the very simple reason that it is very easy to fall but not to rise again till one has found out how to do so. But the fabricator helped his newly made friend to rise, and seated him in a chair. Whereupon all sorts of emotions were expressed in the man's face at what must have seemed to him a strange doubling and cracking of himself, but in reality, as he afterwards explained, he had no such thoughts at all, but was merely a curious machine in which emotions were expressed in the face because of reflex action of the nervous system. This is a curious point, for during all the time which intervened between his creation and the development of speech in him he says he neither felt joy nor sorrow, pain nor satisfaction, although be would often be seen to weep and laugh and express all emotions and passions as a human being expresses them. If struck he would cry out and pucker up his face as an infant does, but has afterwards remembered how he felt at such moments, and could relate his thoughts; of course his experience is valuable, where a child's cannot be obtained since the first two or three years of man's ordinary life are utterly forgotten and lost. This singular being said that when he was struck he knew it merely because he saw it and experienced a new sensation in his head, and which he did not refer to the place smitten.
He had no desire to pucker up his face and cry, nor did he know that he did so till another different sensation which he felt in his ears seemed to set his head all in a whirl, one sensation begetting another until at last he thought that his head was all there was—that the room and his fabricator were all in it, and acting there as one. In other words, he was a sort of idealist, getting the universe under his own hat. Could he have expressed himself in philosophical language lie would not have said with Hume, that ideas and impressions were all that existed, but with some Germans, that ideas are all. But, to do him justice, he did not remain long in this condition of mind, for when his fabricator made him walk he obtained an idea of locality, and consequently of something that was not he, thereby making a great stride. But yet a more singular phenomenon than even these was noticed and afterwards interpreted by him. When he began to think he was conscious of an entirely new cerebral sensation, of disintegration of some fine substance within his head; he knew that this disintegration occasioned his thought and not vice versa. On this principle he afterward explained the well-known fact that in mental science, called the association of ideas, since mechanical action among molecules cannot but result in other and connected motions, and hence, if their product be ideas, these must always seem and actually be connected, while on no hypothesis except this is that remarkable fact explicable.
As time went on and the man had become gradually separated from his notion that he was all that existed, a feeling of awe and reverence sprung up within him for Vasta, whom naturally enough he called his master, and whom he considered a superior being, inasmuch as he felt himself in his power. He would pray that he might see his face always, for he loved him. To try an experiment Vasta withheld food from his creature for a day, and when asked for it took it from his pocket and bestowed it upon the poor fellow, who thenceforth for some time begged him night and morning not to withhold food from him. Afterward Vasta discovered that the man had formulated a prayer in which he, Vasta, was called the "Bread giver," and, merely from philanthropic motives, he dispelled this illusion, as he knew that its inevitable result would be to make the man very lazy. At first he had no idea of size, solidity, perspective or the ordinary properties of matter; but, when taught geometry, made most rapid progress, and when told one day that a straight line was the shortest distance between two points, astonished his master by saying: "No; a line is not distance at all ; a straight line is the shortest line between two points." He looked at all things in the most matter-of-fact way, but accounted for them in the most whimsical. There was, according to him, a "goodness" that made things good, an "evil principle" that made them bad, a "beauty" that made them beautiful, an "intellect" that made his master wise, and a "chairness" or "boxness" that made things chairs and boxes.
But as he became more conversant with nature these opinions faded away. Taken from his room into the streets of Stockholm, he saw men like Vasta, he saw houses and strange animals, and these set him to thinking, but when he went into the woods and fields and saw how plants and animals grew and the conditions of their existence, his views changed entirely. Vasta was no longer a god, but a man like himself. It was in the woods that the manner in which he was brought into conscious life was explained to him; how he was like other men in that every particle of his body was at first taken from his ancestors—if the dead bodies from which he was made can be called by so sacred a name—but that he differed from others merely in the fact that he was the result of a great scientific experiment, and had been produced merely for scientific purposes. "You see," said Vasta, "evidence of design in every part of the body; see how particular I was to put your eyes in your head instead of in your heels." "But why,"
was he answer, "did you not place them on long flexible protuberances in my forehead, so that I might have seen
in all directions without changing my position?" "Ah," said the old man, smiling benevolently; "had I done so how could you have worn a hat? In other words, how could you have been a social being ? Socially, it is as necessary to wear a hat as to have a moral nature." "But why not give me more hands with which better to earn a living and pursue science, to which I devote my life?"
Again the old man smiled. "Political economy would not stand it—it would have taken all your earnings to supply yourself with gloves, and thereby the mass of men would suffer, for nature has so arranged matters that in the universe there can be at any given time only gloves enough to supply the actual and ordinary number of hands." And so at every turn was this strange being taught by the philosopher who had only skill enough to make him, and in the end to leave him to shift for himself.

See the timeline on Cyborgs and Bionics here.

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1960 – “Beauregard” the Robot – Tom Graham (American)


1960 – "Beauregard" the Robot by Tom Graham.


There are 17 buttons on the control panel, which Tom uses to make the mechanical man do his bidding. Aided by his machinist dad, the lad labored for 15 months to perfect the robot.

Operating a 17-button control panel, Tom Graham is able to make his home-made automaton move about the room on rollers, move its head, swing its arms, pick up objects and blink its eyes.


"You called, Master?" is what "Beauregard" the robot seems to be saying to Tom Graham, 13, as the latter awakens at home in Madison, Tenn. The youngster utilized junk parts to build his unusual playmate. 27 Feb, 1960.

The_Salem_News_Apr_8_1960_ beauregard-2-x640

The_Salem_News_Apr_8_1960_ beauregard-3-x640

When it's time for "Beauregard" to get a little fresh air, Tom needs a helper to get the tin can man outside. Here, Ronnie Smith assists in toting the 100-pound automaton. The rollers beneath the robot's feet require a level surface, so it's seldom taken from the house.

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The_Salem_News_Apr_8_1960_ beauregard-5-x640

Source: Buffalo Courier-Express Pictorial, April 24, 1960.

Junk Man

Most boys enjoy a good scrap, but Tom Graham prefers a scrappy playmate who doesn't fight back. Using junk parts, the inventive Madison, Tenn., youngster has built a mechanical pal that's tough as metal but gentle as a kid brother. Aided by his machinist dad, 13-year-old Tom took 15 months to build and perfect his robot playmate. Named "Beauregard," the automaton can "walk" across the room on rollers, pick up objects and blink his two green eyes. It is constructed of old lard cans, coffee cans, an oil drum and discarded furnace pipes. Powered by four castoff electric motors, the robot's innards are a maze of chains, wheels and assorted wires.

See other early Humanoid Robots here.

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1959 – “DUHAB” – Lawrence Lipton / Bill Riola (American)

1959 – "DUHAB" (Detector of Undesirable HABitués) by Lawrence Lipton / Bill Riola.


Photograph caption dated December 5, 1960 reads, "Electronic Cat Detects Subversives for Beatniks. Duhab accompanies poet-author Lawrence Lipton to weed out undesirables."
Image source: The Los Angeles Public Library.
Lawrence Lipton was talking to the Valley College Writer's Club.

Source: The beatnik DUHAB robot

    Posted By: Scott Harrison | February 7, 2012

July 19, 1965: The original published caption reported:

GADGET FOR TODAY–Author Lawrence Lipton, chronicler of the beatnik scene, demonstrates his “robot,” Duhab (Detector of Undesirable HABitués). Lipton says robot ferrets out the undesirables – including censors, book-burners.

By 1965, media outlets were reporting the beatnik era over. Not so, claimed Lipton, whose 1959 best seller, “The Holy Barbarians,” chronicled the Venice scene. As quoted in a Times article by staff writer Doug Mauldin, Lipton explained, “What happened is that the artistic element has gone underground. Artists, writers, painters and avant-garde filmmakers live and work in their own pads.”

“And there are two or three times as many true beats here as there were in the 1950s when they were getting all the publicity.”

But, as pointed out in Mauldin’s story:

He (Lipton) is particularly bitter about past campaigns to rid Venice of the Beatniks.

“The Venice West beat scene was the most promising attempt ever made to bring avant-garde culture to Southern California, and it was murdered by self-righteous, puritanical busy-bodies and hostile police,” he said.

The above portrait of Lipton accompanied Mauldin’s story in the July 29, 1965, Westside Edition of the Los Angeles Times.


Source: Venice West: The Beat Generation in Southern California by John Arthur Maynard – 1991, p 123
Larry Lipton, as "director of entertainment" for the Gas House, seemed torn between wanting to win and wanting to be right. Shortly after one of the police commissioners told him he had a responsibility to keep "undesirables" out of the Gas House, Lipton returned with an extraordinary contraption which he solemnly described as an "electronic doorman." Built to his specifications by the Gas House light crew and decorated by Bill Riola, it was a primitive but functioning robot with a little popeyed face, a built-in tape recorder, and an incredible array of sirens, whistles, bells, and flashing red lights. "Duhab"—short for "Detector of Undesirable Habitués"-was described as being able to sense the approach of "teenage werewolves, dope addicts, sex fiends, subversives, alcoholics, and homosexuals (male and female)," and members of the Venice Civic Union-in which event, all of its alarms were set to go off at once. Duhab made good theater, but bad hearing strategy; it helped make Lipton himself the issue, and gave the hearing examiner, Officer Thomas Mulhern, the opportunity to focus on the "moral character" of those who would be directing "the proposed entertainment."

Source: The Van Nuys News (Calif.), Sunday, Oct. 18, 1959   
Two-Week Delay Ordered in Venice 'Beatnik' Hearings
The West Venice "Beatniks" will have to wait two weeks before their request to have a City Police Commission examiner disqualified will be considered.
The commissioners refused Wednesday to discuss charges of prejudice against examiner Thomas Mulherin, who conducted hearings for an entertainment licence at a beatnik "culture center" known as the Gas House and located in West Venice.
Cries "Unfair!"
President John Ferraro said the disqualification charges will not he discussed until all commissioners have had a chance to study the transcript, which includes more than 1000 pages of testimony.
Atty. A. L. Wirin, representing Atty. Al Matthews, owner of the Gas House, told the commission that he was being treated unfairly and that he had been told the matter would be on Wednesday's agenda.
Ferraro speculated that it would be two weeks before the commissioners will he prepared to discuss the matter.
In a brief filed last week, Wirin accused Mulherin of "unfair and prejudicial conduct" in conducting hearings on an application for an entertainment permit at the Gas House, 1540 Ocean Front Walk.
Wirin, accompanied by Matthews and beatnik author Lawrence Lipton, was not permitted to discuss the matter at all at Wednesday's session.
Complaint Detailed
Before the session, Wirin said he would base his arguments on three main points brought out by earlier hearings in which he claims Mulherin showed "prejudice and bias" against the beatniks. They are:
1—That Mulherin said he doubted whether Lawrence Lipton, author of "The Holy Barbarians," knew the meaning of the word "moral."
2—That Mulherin said he doubted—after reading Lipton's book—that Lipton was a responsible person to manage entertainment at the Gas House.
3—That Mulherin accused Lipton of injecting the racial issue into the hearings when, Wirin said, it was the commission's representative who injected it into the hearings prior to Lipton's testimony.
Wirin said he will cite numerous items in the transcript of earlier hearings to support his motion to disqualify Mulherin.
Have Poetic Robot
The newly-formed defense committee for Culture in Venice, headed by Robert Chatter-on, announced that several mass meetings will be held to raise money for the entertainment license fight. At these meetings, typical Gas House entertainment programs will be offered, it was stated.
One of the meetings will be held in the Gas House, but a beatnik robot—that writes and recites poetry with music—will be used.
"The idea." Chatterton explained, "is that a robot does not rate as 'live entertainment,' which the police have banned at the Gas House, pending the license hearings.
Names New Device
The beatniks promised to bring to this afternoon's hearing the bearded and sandaled Duhab, the electronic robot "detector of undesirable habitués," which Lipton said is capable of "screening out alcoholics, dope fiends, teenage werewolves and other undesirables at the door, thus evading the wrath of the Venice Civic Union.
"A new detection device has been added since Duhab was unveiled last week," Lipton added.
"It is a set of heavenly chimes that sound on the appearance at the Gas House door of any member of the Civic Union."

See the full list of Fake and Pseudo Automatons and Robots here.

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