Other General & Trivia

Czech word “Robot” and Its History

The word “Robot” is one of the great Czech inventions. Who is the author and where did it come from?

The brilliant Karel Čapek…is not the author

robot čapekDespite of what many people think Karel Čapek, the brilliant Czech journalist, book writer, play author, translator and photographer isn’t the author of the word robot. However, he is to be given credit for the fact that the whole world knows and uses this Czech word, because he used it in his play “R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)”. The play premiered on 25 January 1921 and very quickly became influential after its publication. By 1923, it had been translated into thirty languages.

If Karel Čapek isn’t the author of the word robot, then who is you ask?


Josef Čapek

robot čapekThis is him, the “father” of the word robot. He is Josef Čapek, the older brother of Karel Čapek and an accomplished book writer and illustrator, graphic artist and painter.

He suggested his brother to use “robot” in his play instead of the word “labor”. Josef derived this word from the Czech word “robota” which means corvée – in feudal system it was the mandatory unpaid labour the farmers did for their ruler.

The life of this talented artist ended very sadly. He was killed by the Germans in the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in 1945.


The First Robot

The first robots – those from the play R.U.R. were not pieces of machinery. They were made from synthetic flesh and they could easily be mistaken for humans. At first, the robots are happy to serve the humans, however, their rebellion lead to the extinction of the human race. The play was Čapek’s warning against the advanced technologies.

In Popular Culture

The brothers Čapek not only gave the humanity this widely used word, Karel Čapek also wanted to warn people that too much technology is a dangerous thing. Some authors felt inspired by his message and based their work on the hypothetical domination of the human race by robots that Čapek referred to. The 2021 movie Mother/Android specifically mentions Čapek and his play. And, of course, robots are often found in movies and other pop culture as well as the topic of the robot rebellion.

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