Thursday, 13 September 2007

Gawen Smith Flea Circus of 1586

The most intriguing item in Moffett's catalogue of mechanical minutiae is an automated flea circus, "made so by art, that art imparted life" by one Gawen Smith in 1586. Like the "exility" of Callicrates' ants or the twitching creatures inside the Schuttelkastenm, Smith's performing fleas act "life things that were alive": they "skippe" and appear to "let out bloud" from a "secret scheathe" Ref 125. Fashioning tiny chains and locks, the locksmith harnesses the fleas to a miniature coach which they pull like tiny horses.

From "Humanism, Machinery, and Renaissance Literature" by PhD Jessica Wolfe
The references have not been followed up so the accuracy of this article has not been confirmed.

Gawen Smith was obviously some kind of inventor as there are other references to him to be found on the web:

"In 1580, Queen Elizabeth I refused to grant Gawen Smith the right to build a lighthouse on the Goodwin Sands. The Queen rejected the petition because she considered the application was solely for financial gain and not for the well-being of the mariner. It would appear from contemporary House of Lords documents that the Master of Trinity House, Henry Church, objected to the Smith proposal because of the applicant's involvement with wrecking." from E Bertrand - Cambridge Journal of Economics, 2006

1 comment:

FleaCircusDirector said...

A trip to the British Library has provided some more details of Thomas Moffett's (a country farmer) books on silkworms and insects