Robotics

Rebuild Eric: The UK's first robot

19th May 2016
Jordan Mulcare

Curator Ben Russell's dream is to rebuild the UK’s first robot, Eric. Built in 1928, Eric holds a unique place in our history. He was everything we now imagine a robot to be – a talking, moving mechanical person. But then Eric disappeared and no-one knows what happened to him.

Now with your support the Science Museum and expert roboticist Giles Walker will rebuild Eric based on original archive materials. You can help save Eric for the nation as part of the Science Museum's permanent collection. Eric will go on public display for everyone to see for free in October 2016 for a month before he stars in the Museum's major Robots exhibition opening in February 2017.

Eric the robot

Originally built by Captain W. H. Richards & A.H. Reffell, Eric was one of the world’s first robots. Created less than a decade after the word robot was first used, Eric was quintessentially British and deemed an almost perfect man by the New York press.

Eric's first public performance was on 20 September 1928, when he opened the Society of Model Engineers' annual exhibition 'with a really sparkling speech'. The society had originally invited the Duke of York to open the event but he declined, so Captain W. H. Richards decided as 'it is a mechanical show, let us have a mechanical man to open it' and started work on creating Eric.     

Eric was built at a time when robots had just become part of popular culture. The word 'robot' was first introduced to the English language in R.U.R., a 1920 play by Czech writer Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). These letters can be seen on Eric's chest.

He weighed just over 45 kg and had a 'armour-plated chest, legs and arms' made of Aluminium. Eric had light bulbs for eyes and 35,000 volts of electricity caused blue sparks to fly from his teeth.   

Crowds were wowed by Eric, he charmed dignitaries and celebrities as he travelled the globe with his makers, visiting the UK, US and Europe.

Then Eric disappeared. Was he lost, destroyed or recycled for spare parts? No-one knows. But you can be part of bringing Eric back to life.

You can fund the project here.

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