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We have had Frankenstein, where a scientist creates life in the shape of a creature (first published in 1818). We've had various stories concerning the first creations of robots (R.U.R from 1920 for example), but I was wondering who wrote the first story, that could be considered science fiction, about creating the "perfect woman"?

I am not looking for "Shaggy God" stories, but attempts by scientists or other sources where the goal is to create what the story protagonist wants as an ideal woman.


For the purposes of my question I'm going to disallow any mythological answers, but the creation of an artificial life form would count.

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    What are your requirements for "Science Fiction"? Because with a sufficiently wide definition (such as that used by my local library; where fantasy and science fiction are shelved together) Galatea & Pygmalion of Greek myth might count. – sharur May 27 at 0:16
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    In Lester del Rey's "Helen O'Loy", two young men accidentally create a perfect woman when just looking to make a robot to do the household work. Not a "Shaggy God" story but not intentional, either. It was 1938. – Mary May 27 at 1:50
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    Does Pygmalion count? – DavidW May 27 at 3:01
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    How about the legend of Galatia (sculptor makes a statue of a women, it comes alive). – NomadMaker May 27 at 19:03
  • @NomadMaker That's Pygmalion, already mentioned. (Galatea is the sculpture, Pygmalion is the sculptor.) – Darrel Hoffman May 28 at 17:31
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A strong candidate for the first science fiction story depicting this is L'Ève future (“The Future Eve”) which French author Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam started in 1878 and published in 1886.

In this story, Thomas Edison creates an android woman “in an effort to overcome the flaws and artificiality of real women and create a perfect and natural woman who could bring a man true happiness” (Wikipedia) and other hijinks.

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    Beats the earliest one I could come up with - Metropolis - by 40 years! – DavidW May 27 at 3:08
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    Hah, overcome the artificiality of natural women by creating a "natural" artificial women? Is that satire? – kutschkem May 27 at 8:21
  • This book is also considered as the first Science Fiction book ever. It is also the first one using "andreid" which derived to android. – davidvera May 27 at 10:55
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    Isn't "android woman" an oxymoron? – user14111 May 27 at 12:11
  • Really good answer, thank you for finding it. I've accepted this as the answer that fits best what I was looking for :) – Alith May 28 at 14:34
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"The Sandman" by the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann which was published in 1816.

In this story, the physics professor Spallanzani builds a lifelike automaton Olimpia, which is visually indistinguishable from a real human and can even mimic some basic human behaviour.
The protagonist Nathanael not knowing that she is artificial becomes enraptured by her.

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  • Really good story and suggestion. But one could argue that "Olimpia" isn't really in the spirit of the original question. She is an automaton, yes, but definitely not convincing to everyone, and Nathaniel is partly enraptured by her because he's losing grip on reality and basically going insane. Or do I misremember the story? – oli May 27 at 21:24
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    @oli You are correct that there is some uncanny valley about her that at least disturbs Nathanael's friends and Nathanael himself certainly is not the most mentally stable. Nevertheless others still accept Olimpia as a human being and while Nathanael misinterprets her actions he still finds her more desirable than his actual fiancée i.e. Olimpia is what he wants as an ideal woman. Or at least that is how I remember it. I might add some excerpts later to my answer. – Turamarth May 28 at 6:18
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    @oli I suppose that the story also contains an element of satire as to what constitutes a "perfect woman" in the eyes of the protagonist: One who mostly listens and does not say much, certainly does not contradict. – Peter - Reinstate Monica May 29 at 14:35
  • Wait - nobody said anything about the being being "absolutely indistinguishable" from an everyday real human? This is the perfect answer. – Fattie May 29 at 14:52
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Gotta go to the classics. Ancient Greeks!

First attempt to create a perfect woman can be traced to them.

Pandora, Galatea,Kourai Khryseai, Celed'ones (Keledons)

Pandora - Created to be a perfect wife for Epimetheus (so he would accept her as a gift) and punishment to human race.

The more famous version of the Pandora myth comes from another of Hesiod's poems, Works and Days. In this version of the myth (lines 60–105), Hesiod expands upon her origin, and moreover widens the scope of the misery she inflicts on humanity. As before, she is created by Hephaestus, but now more gods contribute to her completion (63–82): Athena taught her needlework and weaving (63–4); Aphrodite "shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs" (65–6); Hermes gave her "a shameful mind and deceitful nature" (67–8); Hermes also gave her the power of speech, putting in her "lies and crafty words" (77–80) ; Athena then clothed her (72); next Persuasion and the Charites adorned her with necklaces and other finery (72–4); the Horae adorned her with a garland crown (75). Finally, Hermes gives this woman a name: Pandora – "All-gifted" – "because all the Olympians gave her a gift" (81). (In Greek, Pandora has an active rather than a passive meaning; hence, Pandora properly means "All-giving." The implications of this mistranslation are explored in "All-giving Pandora: mythic inversion?" below.) In this retelling of her story, Pandora's deceitful feminine nature becomes the least of humanity's worries. For she brings with her a jar (which, due to textual corruption in the sixteenth century, came to be called a box)[6][7] containing[8] "burdensome toil and sickness that brings death to men" (91–2), diseases (102) and "a myriad other pains" (100). Prometheus had (fearing further reprisals) warned his brother Epimetheus not to accept any gifts from Zeus. But Epimetheus did not listen; he accepted Pandora, who promptly scattered the contents of her jar. As a result, Hesiod tells us, "the earth and sea are full of evils"

Galatea - A statue created by sculptor Pygmalion to be his perfect woman. All the real women around him had flaws, he said he can make the better one himself. Aphrodite gave her life during one of her festivals. Some say as punishment (because women of the town prayed to Aphrodite to do so, since Pygmalion loved Galatea only because she was quiet and non-moving statue), some say as pity (because Pygmalion fell in love with the statue and prayed to Aphrodite himself to give her life else he would suicide).

Kourai Khryseai:

The Kourai Khryseai (or Golden Maidens) were female automatons that were created by the god of metalworking, Hephaestos, to be his personal servants in his palace on Olympus. They were forged out of gold, hence their name, the Golden Maidens.

Celedones:

CELE′DONES (Kêlêdones), the soothing goddesses, were frequently represented by the ancients in works of art, and were believed to be endowed, like the Sirens, with a magic power of song. For this reason, they are compared to the Iynges. Hephaestus was said to have made their golden images on the ceiling of the temple at Delphi. (Paus. ix. 5. § 5; Athen. vii. p. 290; Philostr. Vit. Apollon. vi. 11; Pind. Fragm. 25, p. 568, &c. ed. Böckh; comp. Huschke and Böttiger, in the Neue Teutsche Mercur, ii, p. 38, &c.)

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    This is a good find but I wasn't looking for answers from myth, and there isn't really an science fiction involved in the creations of these, its more magic – Alith May 28 at 14:30
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    @Alith what is science but magic explained? This was my first thought when I saw the title, and has my upvote. – D. Ben Knoble May 28 at 19:36
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I would offer Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Birth-Mark, from 1843.

Aylmer is a brilliant and recognized scientist and philosopher who drops his focus from his career and experiments to marry the beautiful Georgiana (who is physically perfect except for a small red birthmark in the shape of a hand on her cheek)...

Aylmer then conducts experiments on Georgiana to make her "perfect" by eliminating the birth mark, with unfortunate results.

I would offer this as a better fit than the myth of Galatea, since Pygmalion is a sculptor, and his creation is brought to life by divine magic - whereas Aylmer is specifically a scientist, and his quest is therefore science fiction.

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    Good find and +1 upvote from me, but removing a blemish doesn't really fit what I was looking for. – Alith May 28 at 14:31
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Maybe The Stepford Wives (1972).

The Stepford Wives is a 1972 satirical thriller novel by Ira Levin. The story concerns Joanna Eberhart, a photographer and young mother who suspects the frighteningly submissive housewives in her new idyllic Connecticut neighborhood may be robots created by their husbands.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This seems like a rather late suggestion, but if you want it to be seriously considered you should explain how this a creative act and not simple brainwashing. – DavidW May 27 at 2:47
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    Clearly preceded by del Rey's "Helen O'Loy" (1938), as well as by the other answers here. – Ross Presser May 27 at 19:57

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