Euphonia of Philadelphia

I found this story on an episode of QI (series N, episode “Next”).


In 1845, a German inventor named Joseph Faber built a machine called Euphonia of Philadelphia that attempted to simulate human speech. It also had the face and torso of a woman.

The machine had bellows for lungs, a tongue, a larynx made out of wires, reed and levers, and it was operated by a keyboard. There were 16 keys, plus one to open the glottis, and foot pedals. Sounds that came out of Euphonia included laughing, whispering, and singing “God Save the Queen”.

This machine fell right into the Uncanny Valley, though, and it freaked people out. The tongue rolled around in the machine’s mouth and the voice it produced was raspy and creepy.

Faber, who was frustrated with the limits of the machine, destroyed it twice. He destroyed it once and then rebuilt it. He destroyed it a second time and committed suicide.


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