Edison's Eve by Gaby Wood
A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life

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A rich and informative exploration of our age-old obsession with “making life.”

Could an eighteenth-century mechanical duck really digest and excrete its food? Was “the Turk,” a celebrated chess-playing and -winning machine fabricated in 1769, a dazzling piece of fakery, or could it actually think? Why was Thomas Edison obsessed with making a mechanical doll—a perfect woman, mass-produced? Can a twenty-first-century robot express human emotions of its own?

Taking up themes long familiar from the realms of fairy tales and science fiction, Gaby Wood traces the hidden prehistory of a modern idea—the thinking, hoaxes, and inventions that presaged contemporary robotics and the current experiments with artificial intelligence. Informed by the author’s scientific and historical research, Edison’s Eve is also a brilliant literary, cultural, and philosophical examination of the motives that have driven human beings to pursue the creation of mechanical life, and the effects of that pursuit—both in its successes and in its failures—on our sense of what makes us human.

About Gaby Wood

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Gaby Wood attended Cambridge University and has been a regular contributor to The Guardian and the London Review of Books. She is the author of a short work of nonfiction, The Smallest of All Persons Mentioned in the Records of Littleness, and is now living in London, where she is a staff writer for The Observer. This is her first full-length book.
Published August 13, 2002 by Knopf. 336 pages
Genres: Computers & Technology, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Mechanical humanoids that could write poetry, play chess, tell fortunes, etc., may not have much in common with today’s software-driven laboratory robots, but Wood finds the sentiments of compulsion and fascination (“They register emotions but do they realize what emotions they’re registering?”) ...

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Publishers Weekly

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In five entertaining chapters, British journalist Wood describes the ways humans have built machines to resemble themselves over the past three centuries. Wood begins with the dynamic creations of

Jun 17 2002 | Read Full Review of Edison's Eve: A Magical Histo...

Star Tribune

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Her often charming nonfiction book, "Edison's Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life," recounts the story of Edison's attempt to make the first talking doll.

Sep 21 2002 | Read Full Review of Edison's Eve: A Magical Histo...

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