Monday, July 29, 2013

Shchukarev's forgotten logical thinking machine

I'd never heard of Professor Shchukarev and his "logical thinking machine," a device able to mechanically make simple logical conclusions based on input assumptions, until I was asked to advice The Moscow Polytechnic Museum on its new computing exhibition. The logical thinking machine was an improvement on the "logic piano" devised by the English logician William Stanley Jevons. On Saturday, April 19 1912, in the big auditorium of the Polytechnical Museum, Professor Shchukarev gave a public lecture on the topic of “Cognition and thinking.” The lecture included the demonstration of his logical thinking machine, "a device that can reproduce mechanically the human thought process, i.e. to deduce conclusions based on given assumptions. The machine was first built by the mathematician Jevons and improved by the author of the lecture. The machine shows its results in plain word form." The machine was lost during the chaos of World War One and the Russian Revolution. You can find a full history of this remarkable machine here.