The automaton that hooked Napoleon

bastião / literary elements

Based on a true story, The Mechanical Turk is the breathtaking historical adventure of a legendary invention that astounded all who crossed its path.


The Turk was touted as an early robot that could play chess at the highest level. Built in Vienna in 1770 by the inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen, the machine consisted of a large pedestal, housing intricate machinery on top of which stood a chessboard. To this box was attached the upper half of a men dressed in oriental robes and a turban. Each performance began with an elaborate introduction to convince the audience that the Turk is really a machine. The automaton would then face a challenger. One person who did his best to find out how the Turk worked was Napoleon, who played the machine three times in Vienna in 1809. On the first encounter the Turk easily defeated him in 19 moves.

The Turk…

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