The Turk was the name given to a chess-playing automaton created by Wolfgang von Kempelen in order to impress the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria-Hungary. In 1770, von Kempelen demonstrated the Turk and so began a series of performances that would continue for 85 years, throughout Europe and eventually in the United States. Technology correspondent for the Economist and author of The Victorian Internet, Standage details the appearance and seeming construction of the automaton, following its existence and influence up through its destruction in a fire. He also provides a fine description of the fascination with automata and magic that was so prevalent in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At the time, no one was able to determine how the Turk performed such feats; a fully operational replica was finally built by a Hollywood stage designer in 1971. Standage concludes this intriguing work by comparing the Turk with developments in computer chess playing in the latter half of the 20th century and also relates it to the broad artificial intelligence field. This book should appeal to a wide range of readers. Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Livermore, CA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* It's a shame that most people these days have never heard of Wolfgang von Kempelen's magnificent machine called the Turk, because it really was a marvelous creation. In the middle of the eighteenth century, automatons were all the rage: mechanical ducks and elephants; pictures with moving parts; even human simulacrums that could write, draw, and play musical instruments. And then there was the Turk, an automaton that could, it appeared, play chess--not just move pieces around a board, but also plan and execute strategies and outwit some of Europe's finest chess players. The Turk had a career that lasted more than eight decades: Benjamin Franklin played a match against it; Edgar Allan Poe wrote about it; Charles Babbage, the great-grandfather of the computer, was fascinated by it. But was it a genuine automaton? Or was it, as the Turk's many critics claimed, a hoax, a simple trick dressed up as a scientific wonder? Standage, who is also the author of the delightful Victorian Internet (1998), chronicles the life and times of the Turk, charting its ups and downs, showing the machine's impact on the world (the Turk was, in a way, the inspiration both for the computer and the modern detective story). Saving the best--the truth about the Turk--for last, he keeps us on the edge of our seats, wondering about the secret to this magical device. History as seen from an unusual angle; thrilling stuff. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This was a highly enjoyable read on a fairly obscure subject. The author has done a great job of setting the context, telling the Turk's story, and drawing lines to some modern... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Gurjeet Ahluwalia
A fantastic read. Simply one of the most enjoyable, fast-paced, non-fiction, books I have read in years.Published on Dec 1 2003 by Pen
Better, as it uses original documents, is the "other" Turk book:
The Turk, Chess Automaton
by Gerald M. Levitt
Even though it was slow at times, this book mixes fact with a little mystery. Very well crafted.Published on April 17 2003 by Aaron Lindsey
As fabulous as Elvis, the mechanical chess player called "The Turk" played for sell-out crowds across Europe and into the USA. Read morePublished on Nov. 21 2002 by Larry Rochelle
This is a wonderful history of a chess playing automaton. The author weaves into the history the mechanical progress of the times as well as the public's yearning to view... Read morePublished on Aug. 26 2002 by Rick Mitchell
I had been wondering about this machine since I first heard about it as a kid. I bought the book immediately on hearing about it. Read morePublished on Aug. 2 2002 by J. Roller
I am geeky enough to find a famous automaton inherently interesting, especially one that seemed to be intelligent, but "The Turk" tickled my curiosity on whole different... Read morePublished on June 18 2002 by Danny Hillis