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Cyborgs are defined as a person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.

The DC's universe's Cyborg is quite famous and Darth Vader is perhaps the most famous cyborg (if not Luke Skywalker.)

Who was the first cyborg in science fiction history, be it in a novel, movie, comic, whatever?

By cyborg I mean the general meaning that is a living person with highly modified mechanical parts.

Note that though this question does answer who the first cyborg was, it does not answer who the first cyborg in science fiction was.

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    WIkipedia - Cyborg "As early as 1843, Edgar Allan Poe described a man with extensive prostheses in the short story "The Man That Was Used Up". In 1911, Jean de La Hire introduced the Nyctalope, a science fiction hero who was perhaps the first literary cyborg, in Le Mystère des XV (later translated as The Nyctalope on Mars)" Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 14:22
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    @BinaryWorrier Heh, trusting Wikipedia. ISFDb gives the first appearance of the story as Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, August 1939. (Note that this is answered in the proposed duplicate.)
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 14:29
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    @BinaryWorrier, I honestly stopped trusting Wikipedia ages ago
    – shanu
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 14:34
  • @DavidW, The question you marked mine as a duplicate of features cyborgs but none of them from science fiction, the accepted answer having a "Legendary Irish King" so NO
    – shanu
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 14:36
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    The "accepted answer" isn't very good; "The Man That Was Used Up" in the higher-voted answer is the answer to your question here.
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 15:10

1 Answer 1

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While there seems to be some debate about whether Edgar Allan Poe's 1839 short story "The Man That Was Used Up" counts (even if it's listed as a genre story in ISFDb), it's clear there are some inarguably SF elements.

Although it's not made clear if his artificial leg and arm are fully functional (though it is hinted they are, since the text does not note a limp or any other impediment to normal movement), the general has at least two parts that are artificial and actually work as replacements for the lost body parts:

  1. A functioning artificial eye:

"O yes, by the way, my eye- here, Pompey, you scamp, screw it in! Those Kickapoos are not so very slow at a gouge; but he's a belied man, that Dr. Williams, after all; you can't imagine how well I see with the eyes of his make."

  1. An artificial voicebox:

Hereupon, the negro, grumbling out an apology, went up to his master, opened his mouth with the knowing air of a horse-jockey, and adjusted therein a somewhat singular-looking machine, in a very dexterous manner, that I could not altogether comprehend. The alteration, however, in the entire expression of the General's countenance was instantaneous and surprising. When he again spoke, his voice had resumed all that rich melody and strength which I had noticed upon our original introduction.

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  • Note also the implication that the eye, at least, is better than a normal human eye. (The voicebox may well be an improvement on his original voice too; when the narrator first meets Brevet Brigadier General James A. B. C. Smith much is made about how marvellous his voice is.)
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 19:28
  • Full story is online here. There's also a part that shows the general to be keenly interested in the latest advances in technology, which I think adds to the science-fictional quality of the later revelation that he is more machine than man: "I perceived, too, that the gallant soldier preferred topics of philosophical interest, and that he delighted, especially, in commenting upon the rapid march of mechanical invention." The next paragraph quotes him making enthusiastic comments like "There is really no end to the march of invention".
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 21:54
  • @DavidW, the first artificial eye is estimated to be found in 2900 BC while the first artificial voicebox is from 1869 30 years after this story was published. So yes the artificial voicebox was perhaps far fetched for 1839 but just that one thing cant make the whole story science fiction (I guess)
    – shanu
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 7:17
  • And many sites label "The man that was used up" as "Horror Fiction" though even I am not sure about that. Still none labelled the story as scifi
    – shanu
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 7:20
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    @shanu This was an artificial eye that the general could actually see with, which is still a science fiction concept. In the story the general says "he's a belied man, that Dr. Williams, after all; you can't imagine how well I see with the eyes of his make". As for other sources calling it science fiction, this article from the journal Science Fiction Studies (you can read it if you sign up for a free JSTOR membership) has a section on Poe as an originator of the genre on p. 13-15, this story is given as an example.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 10:34

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