The Robot Knight – The first human robot in history

NB: The Video is in Italian but I provide explanations with time-codes below

Not too long ago, it was discovered that the inventor of the first functioning human robot was none other than the Renaissance Genius: Leonardo da Vinci. Not only did he paint the Mona Lisa, and conceive of the helicopter and the tank in their prototypes, but he also built robots.

Thanks to Mark Rosheim, who spent some 5 years researching and re-building the robot Knight by going through the many pages of various manuscripts left by Leonardo, we now have an actual working copy, which can be seen in the second half of the video above.

In case you do not speak Italian, the following points of interest are mentioned in it:

1.07 — the original folio on which the femoral joint was sketched is folio 1012V. As you will see in the video, the progression is made from right to left, as was usual for Leonardo to do (he wrote right to left with his left hand, some say as way to ensure no one could easily read his manuscripts at a time when literacy was probably not very high anyway)

1.15 onwards — Other folios of interest:

1021R Shoulder rotor cuff joint

1077R Motor Transmission function

579R the combination of 13 pulleys and ropes that allow for movement

4.07 — At this point the presenter discusses the possible uses of such a Robot Knight. Placed atop a fortification, a wall or tower, and possibly back-lit by a fire or other source of light, from a distance such automata would move in a perfectly natural and anatomically correct way due to the fact that the joints devised by Leonardo are still actively useful today. As used by NASA.

Yes you read that right. Part of the reason Mark Rosheim researched Leonardo’s robot so obsessively apparently is because things like the wrist joint were so difficult to build normally, and so well-designed by old da Vinci, that they are still useful today, and Rosheim apparently has incorporated some elements of the Robot Knight in a modern robot version he is selling to NASA for use aboard the International Space Station.

I hope Leonardo, wherever he is, can appreciate that his work not only found expression in flying machines, but has now been directly used in technology that is, quite literally, out of this world.

Well done compadre.

PS: As of next week I will finally announce the release of my new book. So come back and visit next Monday.

5 Responses to “The Robot Knight – The first human robot in history”

  1. Augustesen says:

    I have a problem with the overall premise of your article but I still think its really informative. I really like your other posts. Keep up the great work. If you can add more video and pictures can be much better. Because they help much clear understanding. 🙂 thanks Augustesen.

    • G says:

      You have a problem with the factual information I pass on? The overall “premise” was just to inform people of the Robot Knight….Are brick walls also a common obstacle for you? 🙂

  2. kaitlin says:


  3. jim says:

    i like it

  4. jim says:

    like me

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