1877 – “Zoe” the Drawing Automaton – John Nevil Maskelyne (British)

My initiial intention with this posting was to show "Zoe" as an example of an  early Anthropomorphic mechanical master-slave manipulator as well as being a drawing machine. What is presented are some images and illustrations of John Nevil Maskelyne's "Zoe", and an operational description of what could be "Zoe", but nevertheless a contemporary suggestion of how a drawing automaton of this type works and could be constructed. All the information present is available in the public domain, which is where I obtained it.

The key description and construction notes comes from the book "More Exclusive Magical Secrets" by Will Goldston, 1912. As Zoe was first shown by Maskelyne and Cooke in 1877, the publication is some 35 years after Zoe's introduction. 


See also the Toy Artist here.


More Zoe info:

Zoe would draw the likeness of any person chosen by the spectators from a list of 200 names, such as Darwin, Disraeli,  Lord Beaconsfield, Mr. Gladstone, and a score of other characters .


Other images I have come across of Zoe. 

I'd say that looks like Darwin.

I'm not familiar enough with significant people of the time to know whose picture is shown above.

The above images show a stencil like quality about them, hinting that the method describe above is most likely how the drawing is 'traced' from a pre-cut stencil-like template.

One of Zoe's routines she could write down numbers – see Cartoon below.


Here is a later patent of a similar idea:

Inventor: FRANK N. REEVES See full patent here.

Patent number: 817092
Filing date: Jan 20, 1906
Issue date: Apr 3, 1906


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This entry was posted on Saturday, January 15th, 2011 at 7:14 pm and is filed under Not Quite Robots, Pseudo Automatons and Robots, Teleoperators. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “1877 – “Zoe” the Drawing Automaton – John Nevil Maskelyne (British)”

  1. [BLOCKED BY STBV] Prosopographus, the Automaton Artist | Griffonage-Dot-Com Says:

    […] Again, Prosopographus was a miniature android, so its arm wouldn’t have been large enough to conceal the arm of a living human artist.  But there was similarly no question of such concealment in the case of “Zoe,” a figure exhibited by Maskelyne starting in 1877 which produced line drawings (but not profiles) of famous people whose names were suggested by the audience (but not of individual patrons); and “Psycho,” a similar figure best known for playing whist.  Both figures must have been remote-controlled in some fashion to have done what they did, and “Zoe” might have been operated as shown in this illustration from Will Goldston’s 1912 book, More Exclusive Magical Secrets (for which I’m indebted to cyberneticzoo.com): […]