…speaking of positronic brains…
The dream of constructing an intelligent humanoid machine is so old that it predates the science-fiction genre by a good few thousand years. Ancient Greek myths talk about artificial mechanical handmaidens built by the god of metallurgy, Hephaestus (known to the Romans as Vulcan.) The Buddhist scholar Daoxuan described humanoid automata made from metals that recited sacred texts in the seventh century AD.
In 1495 Leonardo Da Vinci purportedly demonstrated a mechanical knight at the Court of Milan.
The term “robot” comes from a play by Czech playwright Karel Čapek in 1921. In the story Rossum’s Universal Robots, the robots are artificially constructed biological beings used for manual labor; “robot” comes from the Czech “Robota,” meaning slave.
The first robot seen on film was in Fritz Lang’s epic Metropolis in 1927. Interestingly, this brings us to the word “android,” basically meaning a man-shaped robot, which makes Metropolis’s iconic ” “maschinenmensch” Maria was not technically an android, but a “gynoid,” which sounds like a word from a website that I’d have to burn my computer after visiting.
The most surprising thing about the history of robotics in fiction is that the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz is canonically a cyborg. Frank L. Baum’s Oz stories are a whole series, and in the prequel story The Tin Woodman of Oz: A Faithful Story of the Astonishing Adventure Undertaken by the Tin Woodman, Assisted by Woot the Wanderer, the Scarecrow of Oz, and Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter published in 1918, it’s explained that the Tin Man was once a lumberjack named Nick Chopper. He was in love with a munchkin named Nimee Amee. Nimee was the ward of the Wicked Witch, so the Witch enchanted Nick’s axe to chop his limbs and head off. After being reconstructed by a tinsmith he finds that Nimee has married Chopfyt, a man constructed from his discarded body parts (guess she has a type,) and has a testy confrontation essentially with his former body.
The Tin Woodman of Oz is mind-bending stuff worthy of the hard sci-fi of the Star Trek universe. Except I don’t think Trek ever reached that level of body horror.