Home | Air | Energy | Farm | Food | Genetic Engineering | Health | Industry | Nuclear | Pesticides | Plastic
Political | Sustainability | Technology | Water

Rossums Universal Robots


RURCapek is the founder of the Czech school of science fiction writers and an annual award given in the field of science fiction writing in Prague bears his name. This play introduced the word "robot" first into Czech in its present meaning and then on to the world's languages. From the Washington Square press edition, Simon and Schuster, 1973. Translated from the Czech by Paul Selver.

A Robot Servant and Numerous Robots



Central Office of the Factory of Rossum's Universal Robots.

Entrance at the back on the right. The windows look out onto endless rows of factory buildings. DOMAIN is sitting in a revolving chair at a large "knee-hole" writing table on which stand an electric lamp, telephone, letter-weight, correspondence file, etc. On the left-hand wall hang large maps showing steamship and railway routes, a large calendar, and a clock indicating a few minutes before noon. On the right-hand wall are fastened printed placards:






-- more maps, shipping transport arrangements, etc. A tape machine showing rates of exchange stands in one corner. In contrast to these wall fittings, the floor is covered with a splendid Turkey carpet. On the right stand a round table, a sofa, leather armchair, and a bookshelf containing bottles of wine and spirits instead of books. Cashier's desk on the left.

Next to DOMAIN'S table SULLA is typing letters.

DOMAIN: (Dictating.) "We do not accept any liability for goods damaged in transit. When the consignment was shipped, we drew your Captain's attention to the fact that the vessel was unsuitable for the transportation of Robots. The matter is one for your own insurance company. We beg to remain, for Rossum's Universal Robots --" Finished?


DOMAIN: Another letter. "To the E. B. Hudson Agency, New York. Date. We beg to acknowledge receipt of order for five thousand Robots. As you are sending your own vessel, please dispatch as cargo briquettes for R.U.R., the same to be credited as part-payment of the amount due to us. We beg to remain --" Finished?

SULLA: (Typing the last word.) Yes.

DOMAIN: "Friedrichswerke, Hamburg. Date. We beg to acknowledge receipt of order for fifteen thousand Robots."

(The house telephone rings. DOMAIN picks it up and speaks into it.)

Hallo, this is the central office -- yes -- certainly. oh, yes, as usual. Of course, send them a cable. Good. (Hangs up telephone)

Where did I leave off?

SULLA: We beg to acknowledge receipt of order of fifteen thousand R.

DOMAIN: (Thoughtfully) Fifteen thousand R. Fifteen thousand R.

MARIUS: (Entering) There's a lady, sir, asking to --

DOMAIN: Who is she?

MARIUS: I don't know, sir. She gave me this card.

DOMAIN: (Reads) Professor William Glory, St. Trydewyde's, Oxbridge -- ask her to come in.

MARIUS: (Opening the door) Please step this way, ma'am.



DOMAIN: (Standing up) What can I do for you, madame?

HELENA: You are Mr. Domain, the general manager.


HELENA: I have come to you --

DOMAIN: With Professor Glory's card. That is sufficient.

HELENA: Professor Glory is my father. I am Helena Glory.

DOMAIN: Miss Glory, it is an unusual honor for us to be -- to be --

HELENA: Yes, well.

DOMAIN: To be allowed to welcome the distinguished professor's daughter. Please sit down. Sulla, you may go.


(Sitting down) How may I be of service to you, Miss Glory?

HELENA: I have come here --

DOMAIN: To have a look at our factory where people are made. Like all visitors. Well, there's no objection.

HELENA: I thought it was forbidden --

DOMAIN: It is forbidden to enter the factory, of course. But everybody comes here with an introduction and then --

HELENA: And you show everybody --?

DOMAIN: Only certain things. The manufacture of artificial people is a secret process.

HELENA: If you only knew how enormously that --

DOMAIN: Interests me, you were going to say. Europe's talking about nothing else.

HELENA: I only wanted to ask --

DOMAIN: Whether I could make a special exception in your case and show you our factory. Certainly, Miss Glory.

HELENA: How do you know that I wanted to ask you that?

DOMAIN: They all do. (Standing up) We shall consider it a special honor to show you more than the rest, because -- indeed -- I mean --

HELENA: Thank you.

DOMAIN: But you must not undertake to divulge the least --

HELENA: (Standing up and giving him her hand) My word of honor.

DOMAIN: Thank you. Won't you raise your veil?

HELENA: Oh, of course, you want to see me. I beg your pardon.

DOMAIN: What is it, please?

HELENA: Would you mind letting my hand go?

DOMAIN (Releasing it) I beg your pardon.

HELENA: (Taking off her veil) You want to see whether I am a spy or not. How cautious you are!

DOMAIN: (Looking at her intently) H'm, of course -- we -- that is --

HELENA: You don't trust me?

DOMAIN: Oh, indeed, Miss Glory, I'm only too delighted. Weren't you lonely on the voyage?


DOMAIN: Because -- I mean to say -- you're so young.

HELENA: Yes. Shall we go straight into the factory?

DOMAIN: Twenty-two, I think, eh?

HELENA: Twenty-two what?

DOMAIN: Years.

HELENA: Twenty-one. Why do you want to know?

DOMAIN: Because as -- -- (With enthusiasm) You'll make a long stay, won't you?

HELENA: That depends upon how much of the factory you show me.

DOMAIN: Oh, hang the factory. But you shall see everything, Miss Glory, indeed you shall. Please sit down. Would you like to hear the story of the invention?

HELENA: Yes, please.

DOMAIN: Well, then. (Sits down with writing-table, looks at HELENA with rapture and reels off rapidly) It was the in the year 1922 that old Rossum the great physiologist, who was then quite a young scientist, betook himself to this distant island for the purpose of studying the ocean fauna, full stop. On this occasion he attempted by chemical synthesis to imitate the living matter known as protoplasm, until he suddenly discovered a substance which behaved exactly like living matter, although its chemical composition was different; that was in the year 1932, exactly 400 years after the discovery of America, whew!

HELENA: Do you know that by heart?

DOMAIN: Physiology, Miss Glory, is not my line. Shall I go on?

HELENA: Please do.

DOMAIN: (Solemnly) And then, Miss Glory, old Rossum wrote the following day in his book: "Nature has found only one method of organizing living matter. There is, however, another method more simple, flexible, and rapid, which has not yet occurred to nature at all. This second process by which life can be developed was discovered by me today." Imagine him, Miss Glory, writing those wonderful words. Imagine him sitting over a test tube and thinking how the whole tree of life would grow from it, how animals would proceed from it, beginning with some sort of beetle and ending with man himself. A man of different substance from ours. Miss Glory, that was a tremendous moment.

HELENA: Go on, please.

DOMAIN: Now the thing was, how to get the life out of the test tube and hasten development: to form organs, bones and nerves, and so on: to find such substances as catalytics, enzymes, hormones, and so forth, in short -- you understand?

HELENA: I don't know. Not much, I'm afraid.

DOMAIN: Never mind. You see, with the help of his tinctures he could make whatever he wanted. He could have produced a Medusa with the brain of a Socrates or a worm fifty yards long. But being without a grain of humor, he took it into his head to make a normal vertebrate. This artificial living matter of his had a raging thirst for life. It didn't mind being sewn up or mixed together. THAT, you'll admit, couldn't be done with natural albumen. And that's how he set about it.

HELENA: About what?

DOMAIN: About imitating nature. First of all he tried making an artificial dog. That took him several years and resulted in a sort of stunted calf which died in a few days. I'll show it you in the museum. And then old Rossum started on the manufacture of man.


HELENA: And I must divulge this to nobody?

DOMAIN: To nobody in this world.

HELENA: It's a pity that it can already be found in every school lesson book.

DOMAIN: Yes. (Jumps up from the table and sits down beside HELENA.) But do you know what isn't in the lesson books? (Taps his forehead) That old Rossum was quite mad. Seriously, Miss Glory, you must keep this to yourself. The old crank actually wanted to make people.

HELENA: But you do make people.

DOMAIN: Synthetically, Miss Helena. But old Rossum meant it actually. He wanted to become a sort of scientific substitute for God, you know. He was a fearful materialist, and that's why he did it all. His sole purpose was to supply proof that Providence was no longer necessary. So he took it into his head to make people exactly like us. Do you know anything about anatomy?

HELENA: Only a very little.

DOMAIN: So do I. Imagine then that he decided to manufacture everything as in the human body. I'll show you in the museum the bungling attempt it took him ten years to produce. It was to have been a man, but it lived for three years only. Then up came young Rossum, an engineer, the nephew of old Rossum. A wonderful fellow, Miss Glory. When he saw what a mess of it the old man was making, he said: "It's absurd to spend ten years making a man. If you can't make him quicker then nature, you may as well shut up shop." Then he set about learning anatomy himself.

HELENA: There's nothing about that in the lesson books.

DOMAIN: (Standing up) The lesson books are full of paid advertisement and rubbish at that. For example, it says there that the Robots were invented by an old man. But it was young Rossum who had the idea of making living and intelligent working machines. What the lesson books say about the united efforts of the two great Rossums is all a fairy tale. They used to have dreadful rows. The old atheist hadn't the slightest conception of industrial matters, and the end of it was that young Rossum shut him up in some laboratory or other and let him fritter the time away with his monstrosities, while he himself started on the business from an engineer's point of view. Old Rossum cursed him, and before he died he managed to botch up two physiological horrors. Then one day they found him dead in the laboratory. That's the whole story.

HELENA: And what about the young man?

DOMAIN: Well, anyone who's looked into anatomy will have seen at once that man is too complicated and that a good engineer could make him more simply. So young Rossum began to overhaul anatomy and tried to see what could be left out or simplified. In short -- but this isn't boring you, Miss Glory?

HELENA: No, on the contrary, it's awfully interesting.

DOMAIN: So young Rossum said to himself: a man is something that, for instance, feels happy, plays the fiddle, likes going for walks, and, in fact, wants to do a whole lot of things that aren't fully necessary.


DOMAIN: Wait a bit. That are unnecessary when he's wanted, let us say, to weave or count. Do you play the fiddle?


DOMAIN: That's a pity. But a working machine must not want to play the fiddle, must not feel happy, must not do a whole lot of other things. A petrol motor must not have tassels or ornaments, Miss Glory. And to manufacture artificial workers is the same thing as to manufacture motors. The process must be the simplest, and the product must be the best from a practical point of view. What sort of worker do you think is the best from a practical point of view?

HELENA: The best? Perhaps the one who is most honest and hard-working.

DOMAIN: No, the cheapest. The one whose needs are the smallest. Young Rossum invented a worker with the minimum amount of requirements. He had to simplify him. He rejected everything that did not contribute directly to the progress of work. He rejected everything that makes man more expensive. In fact, he rejected man and made the Robot. My dear Miss Glory, the Robots are not people. Mechanically they are more perfect than we are, they have an enormously developed intelligence, but they have no soul. Have you ever seen what a Robot looks like inside?

HELENA: Good gracious, no!

DOMAIN: Very neat, very simple. Really a beautiful piece of work.

Czech & Sloval Collections at the Library of Congress 

George Kovtun


The Library of Congress is considered to be the best repository of Czech and Slovak books, periodicals and other reading materials outside the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The monographs and bound periodicals relating to the culture of the Czechs and Slovaks amount to ca. 115,000 items, with the yearly acquisitions of monographs averaging ca. 1,500 over the last 10 years. The LC has about 2000 Czech and Slovak periodicals, of which ca. 600 are currently received, and more than 170 Czech and Slovak newspapers, with 14 titles currently received. It is estimated that about 80 percent of all these materials are in Czech or Slovak, English being the predominant language of the rest.

While the Czech and Slovak collections in the LC are generally good, they are especially strong for books and periodicals published after 1945. This is due to the fact that after 1945 monographs and periodicals published in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech and Slovak Republics) were purchased by LC on the basis of a blanket order.

The period of the 1920s and 1930s (the era of the First Czechoslovak Republic) is also well represented. Some of the holdings of works from this period have been acquired retrospectively, with stress being laid on volumes showing the excellent Czechoslovak craftsmanship in book design and printing.

Another area of relative strength is Czech and Slovak exile and Samizdat literature published during the Communist era.


The essence of Czech and Slovak history and culture, as it is reflected in published works, is well represented in the Library of Congress. A scholar wishing to explore the best Czech and Slovak achievements in scholarship and spiritual life by focusing on five outstanding figures (John Hus, Comenius, Jan Kollar, Ludovit Stur, Thomas G. Masaryk) would find an astonishing 1017 volumes by or about these personalities in the LC comupterized catalog:

A researcher interested in literature would find the following holdings of the six leading authors:

The quality of the holdings is also extraordinary. No fewer than 25 of the Comenius volumes are books published before 1800. The Comenius collection in the LC includes nine editions of his famous Orbis sensualium pictus, including the first American edition published in New York in 1810. Works by Thomas G. Masaryk include the first edition of his first book, Selbstmord als sociale Massenerscheinung (1881) and its English translation, Suicide and the Meaning of Civilization (1970). Both historically important and rare is a microfilmed set of the critical and literary monthly Athenaeum published by Masaryk in 1884-1893. Of the works by and about Karel Capek, one of the first noted European authors of science fiction, the LC has the first American edition (1923) of his 'fantastic melodrama' R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) with photographs of the first American production. Jaroslav Hasek's world-famous Good Soldier Svejk is represented by almost 30 editions (the Czech original and translations into several languages). There are close to 20 editions of the seminal poem "Maj" (May) by Karel Macha which marks the beginning of modern Czech poetry. The LC has the first edition (1836) and the 100th edition adorned with engravings of Vaclav Masek and printed in 100 copies. The collection of the works of Jaroslav Seifert includes the first edition of his first book of poems, Mesto v slzach (City in Tears) (1920), and a luxury edition of the book Postovni holub (The Carrier Pigeon) (1929). The latter was published in 350 copies, of which the LC has Copy No. 34, signed by the author.


During the Communist era a number of Czech and Slovak authors left the country and, for political reasons, many others were banned from publishing their works in Czechoslovakia. Especially in the two decades between 1968 and 1989 important works by the exile authors were published in several Western countries. At the same time, silenced authors published Samizdat editions of their writings in Czechoslovakia. Two special agreements, one with '68 Publishers' in Toronto, the other with the Czechoslovak Samizdat Documentation Center in West Germany, ensured the acquisition of this type of literary work, without which the LC collection of modern Czech and Slovak literature would be incomplete.

The LC collection of exile literature is several hundred volumes strong. Authors such as Josef Skvorecky, Milan Kundera, Arnost Lustig and many others are represented by most of their novels and stories written and published outside Czechoslovakia. The Samizdat collection consists of a selection of about 500 monographic titles and 40 periodical titles published in the 1970s and 1980s. It documents well both the scope and the contents of 'unofficial' literature from this period, and includes works of such important authors as Jan Patocka, Vaclav Cerny, and Jindrich Chalupecky.


The LC's resources for the study of history and political developments in the Czech Lands and Slovakia are generally very good. They cover all periods and include a good number of English language materials. A recently published bibliography shows more than 5000 items (books, essays, articles, dissertations) written in English on the subject of Czech and Slovak history.

There are items of exceptional value in this area, including some that are unique in the United States. For the study of Czech and Slovak politics before the First World War (when both the Czech Lands and Slovakia were parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) the LC offers an excellent documentation: the almost complete stenographic protocols of the Vienna parliament (Reichsrat) in the years 1861-1918 preserved on microfilm. The recorded proceedings include verbatim speeches of prominent politicians. The set consists of 22O microfilm reels, and is well indexed.

Related to this are the stenographic protocols of the Bohemian Diet for the years 1868-1908 (20 reels). The political development of Czechoslovakia in the years 1918-1938 is documented in two microfilmed collections:

Particularly valuable information about Czech and Slovak history and culture is stored in 19th-century periodicals, of which the LC has long runs of some of the most prominent titles.

On the Slovak side, the LC has microfilmed copies of:

For the Czech Lands, the LC has:


Among the sources relating to the life of the Czech-Americans and the Slovak-Americans are two collections of personal papers in the custody of the Manuscript Division that offer a variety of original materials:


The Rare Book Division of the LC has several Czech cultural treasures. They include seven incunabula from the Czech Lands, one of which is a Bible was printed in Kutna Hora in 1489. This is one of the first Bible's printed in Czech, and the LC's copy is one of eighteen remaining copies. Other especially rare books are a one-volume edition of the Kralice Bible of 1596 and Jan Hus' Postilla of 1563.

The Rare Book Division also has in its custody 30 works by Comenius, including a Czech hymnal printed in Amsterdam during his lifetime in 1659. The Rare Book collections also include about 150 volumes of modern literature, many of them published in bibliophile editions in a small number of copies. They are kept by the Rare Book Division as examples of high quality Czech book design which flourished especially in the 1920s and 1930s. This selection includes works by such noted authors as Karel Capek, Jaroslav Seifert, Vitezslav Nezval, Jiri Wolker, and Petr Bezruc. The illustrators and book designers include such renowned artists as Karel Svolinsky, Vratislav H. Brunner, Karel Capek, Adolf Kaspar.


The most valuable Czech manuscript in the custody of the Manuscript Division is Thomas G. Masaryk's complete original handwritten copy of his book Nova Evropa (The New Europe). The final version of this work was written by Masaryk during his stay in Washington in 1918, and the manuscript was donated to the LC by Masaryk's former private secretary, Dr. Jaroslav Cisar.

More than 20 documents (letters, memoranda, statements) relating to Masaryk's liberation movement during the First World War can be found in the collection of the Woodrow Wilson Papers. They include the 'Declaration of Common Aims' issued by the Mid-European Democratic Union, an organization of representatives of the Central European peoples, in October 1918.

Documents on the situation in Czechoslovakia after World War II are included in the collection of Papers of Laurence A. Steinhardt, U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1945 to 1948. Of great interest for the study of the history of the city of Prague is the collection of Papers of Antonin Novotny (1891-1958), a Czech author specializing in the history of the capital of Bohemia.


Most valuable from the historical point of view are about 70 prints by the 17th-century Czech artist Vaclav Hollar (1607-1677), the creator of splendid etchings showing landscapes, cities, and portraits.

The Prints and Photographs Division also houses more than 500 posters with themes relating to the Czech Lands and Slovakia. Among them are 6 posters by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), including one rare item made for Sarah Bernhardt's American tour in 1896, and 23 by the noted contemporary artist Zdenek Ziegler (born 1932).

Another poster in the custody of the Division shows the 1941 German blueprint for the destruction of the village of Lidice. The 14 posters by Vojtech Preissig (1873-1944), who spent a part of his career in the United States, deserve special attention. Most of these posters were created in support of the Czech and Slovak resistance efforts against Austria-Hungary and Germany during the First World War.


The LC has the first atlas with the first Czech map of Bohemia. This is in the 1545 Muenster edition of Ptolemy's Geographia. It also has the first independent map of Moravia (Fabricius, 1568), which appears in Ortelius' Theatrum orbis terrarum (Antwerp, 1573), and the first Ortelius atlas with Lazius and Sambucus maps showing Slovakia (1579).

A particularly precious item in the LC collection is Augustin Herman's extremely rare map of Virginia and Maryland of 1670, which was acquired in 1960. Augustin Herman was a Czech emigre who came to America via Holland. Herman's map was entitled, "Virginia and Maryland as it is planted and inhabited this present year 1670 surveyed and exactly drawne by the only labour & endeavor of Augustine Herrman bohemiensis".


The LC has an impressive set of scores by Bedrich Smetana, Antonin Dvorak, Leos Janacek, Zdenek Fibich, Eugen Suchon, and other Czech and Slovak composers. Chamber music is an area of special strength, and is represented by several baroque and early classical figures such as Jan Dismas Zelenka, Josef Myslivecek, Jan Stamitz, and Jiri Benda, and, up through the modern period, Bohuslav Martinu. Josef Myslivecek (called 'il divino Boemo') is represented by 30 titles of pieces of music, including several 18th-century manuscripts.

The Archives of World Literatur on Tape has recording of a number of Czech authors reading from their works (Bohumil Hrabal, Ivan Klima, Arnost Lustig, Ivan Divis, and others). LC also has two recorded sound collections relating to key political events:


To send Mindfully.org your comments, questions, and suggestions click here
The home page of this website is www.mindfully.org
Please see our Fair Use Notice