From Academic Kids

Gynoid (from Greek gyne - woman) is a term used to describe a robot designed to look like a human female, as compared to an android modeled after a male. The term is not common, however, with "android" often being used to refer to both "genders" of robot. The portmanteaus "fembot" (female robot) and "feminoid" (female android) have also been used sparingly. Gynoid alone was first used in the writings of British science fiction author Gwyneth Jones and later by Richard Calder.


Early concepts

Historically, stories surrounding artificial females can be categorised into three groups:

  1. A passive doll, who becomes a mirror of male fantasy and says little (arguably, a Realdoll qualifies as this, and is a step towards a Gynoid.)
  2. A household companion, practical and capable of performing menial tasks
  3. A woman endowed with spirit, intelligence and emotion
Missing image
Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

From 600 BC onwards legends of talking bronze and clay statues coming to life have been a regular occurrence in the works of classical authors such as: Homer, Plato, Pindar, Tacitus, and Pliny. In Book 18 of the Iliad, Hephaestus the god of all mechanical arts, was assisted by two moving female statues made from gold - "living young damsels, filled with minds and wisdoms". Another legend has Hephaestus being commanded by Zeus to create the first woman, Pandora, from out of clay. The myth of Pygmalion king of Cyprus, tells of a lonely man who sculpted his ideal woman from ivory, Galatea, and then promptly fell in love with her after the goddess Aphrodite brings her to life. The idea of loving an artificial creation was recounted in modern times by Henry Higgins and Eliza Dolittle in George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion (1916) originally staged with marionettes, and in the musical My Fair Lady (1956). Variations on this recurrent theme appear in Ernst Hoffman's gothic short story Der Sandman (1817) in which the love object is the automaton Olympia, in Léo Delibes' ballet Coppélia (1870) where it is the eponymous dancing doll, and in countless recent science fiction films and novels.

Since the Renaissance, inventors began considering machines for more realistic yet aesthetic purposes. In 1540, Italian inventor Gianello Torriano of Cremona made automata for the amusement of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, including a life-sized girl plucking a lute. The girl could walk in straight lines or circles and tilt her head. It still exists and now resides in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. During the 1640s, the French philosopher René Descartes is reputed to have travelled with an artificial female companion called Francine, named after his daughter. Austrian Friedrich von Knauss developed a "writing doll" in 1760 capable of writing up to 107 words through dictation. By 1773, the Jaquet-Droz brothers in France had developed a series of life-like mechanical puppets which included a sixteen year old female musician. The musician played a piano with fingers on the appropriate keys and was designed to simulate breathing as well as turn her head sideways and bow at the end of each performance. Mechanist Les Maillardet is credited in inspiring the invention of the "The Philadelphia Doll" (1812) which was capable of writing in English and French and drew landscapes. In 1823, Johann Nepomuk Maelzel had manufactured a doll that could state "Ma-ma" and "Pa-pa". By 1891, Thomas Edison developed this work further by patenting his Talking Doll, utilising a wax cylinder that recited "Mary Had a Little Lamb", based on Maelzel's earlier idea. Initially to advertise his phonograph, more than 500 were produced.

The industrial revolution and in particular since World War II, the development of cybernetics and the concept of artificial intelligence led to more complex ideas of robots and androids. Whereas robots in the past have performed routine and mundane tasks, a fully independent gynoid has yet to be developed. To date gynoids exist only in science fiction. As the human form is not the most practical morphology for robotic devices, the development of gynoids will depend largely upon the commercial drive of the consumer.

List of fictional gynoids

Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama is well-known for having female-shaped robots among his preferred themes.


  • Adams, Alison (1998) Artificial Knowing: Gender and the Thinking Machine. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415129621
  • Balsamo, Anne (1996) Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822316862
  • Haraway, Donna J. (1991) Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415903866
  • Jordana, Ludmilla (1989) Sexual Visions: Images of Gender in Science and Medicine between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299122905
  • Leman, Joy (1991) "Wise Scientists and Female Androids: Class and Gender in Science Fiction." In, Corner, John, editor. Popular Television in Britain. London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 0-85170-269-4
  • Warner, Marina (2000) reprint Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. ISBN 0520227336

See also

External links



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