The earliest movie android I can remember is the Yul Brynner character from Westworld. Are there any earlier examples?

Please exclude those robots that are clearly distinguishable from human (unless damaged or otherwise revealed).


4 Answers 4


As long as you mean "things called 'robots' that look like humans", the answer is simple.

The first robots with a human appearance were also the very first things to be called "robots", in the play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek. When the play premiered in 1921, it introduced the word into the world's vocabulary.

  • I believe he means "indistinguishable from human without close examination". R.U.R will fail in that regard, as the costumes clearly indicate the portrayal of a mechanical/artificial being.
    – John O
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 21:15
  • 1
    @JohnO SULLA: From here, the factory HELENA: Oh, you were born here. SULLA: Yes I was made here. HELENA: (startled) What? DOMIN: (laughing) Sulla isn't a person, Miss Glory, she's a robot.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 23:36
  • 1
    @JohnO The dialog of the play indicates clearly that the Rossum's robots are very humanlike in appearance. The costumes no doubt would have varied considerably from one production to another. What costumes are you referring to?
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 23:37

Westworld the film is 1973 (did he ever write it as a novel?). Star Trek (1966-1969) certainly predates this, there were numerous androids that were indistinguishable from human. But I suspect that even this isn't the earliest... I seem to remember a My Favorite Martian episode where he made a android that was the duplicate of himself, and though I've never watched much of it Lost in Space starts in 1965 so it's also a potential candidate.

Batman (TV) also started in 1966. Another with the potential to predate Star Trek's androids.

And that's just in film and television. Literature probably trumps anything from either of those.

If anyone can give episodes and airdates, you can put it in your own answer and take the reputation, don't feel the need to edit mine.

  • 3
    Asimov wrote the Caves of Steel in 1954, so that trumps all those but I think the Movies site probably nailed it with their Metropolis (1927) answer.
    – dlanod
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 21:56
  • Was Daneel Olivaw in that first one? It's been so long...
    – John O
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 22:01
  • 1
    He was - I double checked Wikipedia before posting to make sure I had the name of the story right.
    – dlanod
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 22:04
  • 1
    @dlanod: Caves of Steel is too late, "Evidence" precedes it (even in publication order).
    – b_jonas
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 11:05

The automaton "Mr. Eisenbrass" from an 1848 issue of Scientific American (which you can find on the last page of this pdf, in the left-hand column) is described as being been sufficiently human-looking to fool a number of visitors the inventor had invited over to see it, and was also able to participate in conversation without giving its artificial nature away, although its laugh was described as "unearthly":

A visitor who writes to the Augsburgh German Gazette, was invited with a friend to visit the Doctor's Sanctum. They beheld him seated at a key board similar to that of a piano forte and nearly in the centre of the room was a fashionably dressed young man, whom the Doctor introduced as a Mr. Eisenbrass, who wished the visitors good morning, and re­mained standing until they were seated. At first the conversation was upon the ordinary topics of the day-Mr. Eisenbrass joined with an occasional remark. but to which the Doctor paid very little attention, and kept amusing himself with the keys of the instru­ment, at which he was seated yet without producing any sound. This surprised the vi­sitors, and one said, Doctor your instrument does not seem inclined to be musical at pres­ent. This brought a laugh from the Doctor, which was echoed by Mr. Eisenbrass, in such an unearthly and comical manner that the visitors had to laugh also, although they felt the laugh to be at their own expense. As soon as the visitors became calm the Dr. rose from his seat, and taking them calmly by the hand said, "Pardon me, my dear friends for having played an innocent prank upon you.—Mr. Eisenbrass is the Automaton I invited you here to see; and being the first who has seen it, I could not resist a sort of paternal desire of showing it off, as fond parents always do their first born children.

Although reading over this story, it's not clear if Mr. Eisenbrass actually has any independent intelligence--it may be that when the Doctor pushes keys on the keyboard, he selects the exact response Mr. Eisenbrass is giving, as opposed to just giving the automaton some general directions like "make polite small talk".

For another early candidate, there is Auguste de Villiers de L'Isle-Adam's novel L'Ève Future (Tomorrow's Eve) from 1886, as described in this article it sounds like the android has some independent intelligence even though programmed to be servile, a bit like a Stepford Wife or the Buffybot:

Since Alicia Clary—and by extension, all women—has proven herself unworthy of Lord Ewald's love, Edison will instead create for his friend a perfect specimen, the Eve of a new race of womanhood, “a combination of exquisite substances. . .[that make up] artificial flesh." A robot with Alicia's face, body, and mannerisms, but with a personality designed to cater to Ewald's every whim: “an Imitation Human Being, if you prefer” (p. 61). Edison implies that his creation will be as fully real as Alicia herself: “Her operation will be a little more dependent on electricity than that of her model; but that’s all” (p. 69). She is not the illusion of a woman, but the manifestation of the feminine ideal, mechanized and subject to male control.

But this review again seems to suggest some ambiguity about whether this android really has an artificial intelligence of its own (and if it does, whether it's purely technological or supernatural):

The great mystery of the book--how exactly Hadaly works--though it is elaborated upon at great length, is never clear. One moment, Hadaly is merely a glorified doll with a phonograph and a "central cylinder" inside dictating pre-recorded conversations and movements which Ewald will be able to choose by manipulating push-buttons hidden in her jewelry. But as she converses with both Ewald and Edison, Hadaly appears to be a fully independent and intelligent being, able to speak and act on her own. Then Edison indicates that Hadaly is operated remotely through a combination of electricity and telepathy by a woman kept in a mystical state by a combination of hypnosis and catatonia, and then there is a suggestion that Hadaly is in fact a sort of incarnation of a spirit descended into the world for the purpose either of leading Ewald to a higher plane, or else, perhaps, damning him to hell--and this spirit may or may not be the same person as the aforementioned catatonic telepath. The book seethes with the sense that a higher, fantastical world is ready any moment to burst in on the mundane world; this sense reaches its climax in a goosebump-raising speech of Hadaly to Ewald at the climax, in which she describes her true nature...or perhaps plays an elaborate ruse. It is tantalizingly unclear whether Hadaly merely contains a sophisticated recording of one woman, or of two, or whether she in fact contains the soul of a woman, or merely its imprint, or whether she is something else entirely, or whether she is one thing with the potential to be another.

Another early story featuring a female android, Ernest Edward Kellett's "The New Frankenstein" from 1899, seems to involve a technological intelligence that can give answers to questions that aren't pre-recorded or given to it by a human (or human soul), see the description here:

Ernest Edward Kellett's "The New Frankenstein" trumped Edison's accomplishments—in fiction, at least. In it an inventor, Arthur Moore, develops an "anti-phonograph": "a triumph of civilisation" that, in the words of the narrator, can "give the appropriate answer to each question I like to put!" Like Edison's, Moore's instrument is fitted out with two tubes, a receiver (or "ear") and a speaker, from which emerges a "sweet and beautifully modulated feminine voice." He installs the anti-phonograph into "a creature that will guide herself, answer questions, talk and eat like a rational being, in fact, perform the part of a society lady."


The short story “Evidence” by Isaac Asimov from 1946 (in the collection I, Robot) claims that U.S. Robots (the company) has experimented with creating robots with an android body that looks indistinguishable from a human. They stopped, due to business reasons, but there are rumors of a few surviving bodies.

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