The Mystery of the Automaton

February 29, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The Automaton Chess Player, known as The Mechanical Turk, was exactly that, a chess-playing machine in the guise of a man clothed as a Turk. He sat at a cabinet with the chess board on top. Before the game, the cabinet doors were opened to show the small empty space within and the gears of the mechanism. The novelty of a machine that could play chess was a sensation that toured Europe and America. The Turk won most of his games. He beat Ben Franklin in Paris when Franklin was Ambassador there in 1783. When The Turk came to America, no less than the man of mysteries himself, Edgar Allan Poe, tried to explain how the automaton worked.

Poe correctly guessed that the mechanical marvel concealed a chess master in the flesh, even if he did not precisely describe how it was done.


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