Continuing the narrative that began here.

Part 24.

From Robertson’s Life of Dr. Smythe.

AT THE CLUB that Evening, the Conversation turned to the Subject of one Doctor Albertus, who, tho’ now near forgot (so fickle is Fashion), was then thought a great Man, on Account of his mechanicall Contrivances. Mr. Hopkins recounted that he had attended an Exhibition in the Chambers of Sir George Purvis, at which Doctor Albertus had exhibited his Automaton, which was a Sort of clockwork Woman that was much talked of in the World of Fashion. Having listened with apparent Interest, Dr. Smythe replied, “For myself, I have no Desire to witness such an Exhibition, tho’ every other Man in London should be present.”

HOPKINS. “And indeed it may come to that: For the Interest which attaches to every scientifick Advancement, has already lured nearly every Man of Standing to one such Demonstration or Another of this wonderfull Automaton.

SMYTHE. “A deserved Interest attaches to those Things which truly advance Science; but we must make a Distinction, between those Things which advance, and those which retard, our Progress. Now surely the Object most worthy of Knowledge is the Soul of man; and any true Advance in that Knowledge would at once attract my Attention. But that is no Progress, which distracts our Attention from the Subject at Hand: For this Automaton no more advances our Knowledge of the Soul, than a talking Magpie advances our Knowledge of Oratory.”

HOPKINS. “Yet the Automaton, tho’ it advance not our Knowledge of the Soul, may yet advance materially our Knowledge of Mechanicks.”

SMYTHE. “Nay, the Science of Mechanicks is but a subservient Science, whose Object is but to tend to the Improvement of Man’s Life and Ease. Now, we have heard this Doctor Albertus proclaim, That his Object in creating a mechanicall Woman, tends toward not the Improvement, but the Replacement, of the Race of Man. By his own Admission, he has forfeited the Right to be called an Improver of Mechanicks. For in what Way could we say that he has improved a Science, whose very Object and Purpose he fights with Tooth and Claw? Call him not the Improver of Mechanicks; call him rather the Assassin, the Murderer of Mechanicks; let us speak plain Truth.”

Continue to Part 25.