The classic example is, of course, Stephen Byerley from Asimov's "Evidence".

Were there SciFi works featuring robots that are able to be indistinguishable from humans (by sight or behavior) prior to that? (September 1946).

What's the earliest such example?

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    Not a winner but honourable mention should go to The Future Eve (1886). "Hadaly" is a robotic copy of a woman called, *"Alicia", indistinguishable from the original. What makes this work notable is that it made the word "Android" popular. Feb 23, 2015 at 11:42
  • 3
    Ah, but was Stephen Byerley a robot? Apr 20, 2022 at 19:39

4 Answers 4


“Able to be indistinguishable” is highly debatable here*, it's not actually science fiction and the word “robot” does not turn up in this text. But if we allow this work at all, then it may well be the earliest appearance: Oʟɪᴍᴘɪᴀ from E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 short story Der Sandmann.

*The protagonist is in fact unable to distinguish her from a human, but it's pretty clear that his senses aren't quite alright. At least the adaption Oʟʏᴍᴘɪᴀ in Jacques Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann is more of a creepy if beautiful puppet (including a crank mechanism that needs to be regularly used to re-power her mechanical clockwork), that only a drugged madman could possibly mistake for a human.

I would perhaps call it steampunk fantasy today.

She's called an Automat.

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    This should most definitely count. Olimpia is a construct that behaves and looks like a human and is only later found out not to be one. May 31, 2016 at 22:39
  • Ha! "A drugged madman"
    – Danny Mc G
    Apr 21, 2022 at 4:22

The original robots in R.U.R. by Karel Čapek (published in 1920) were very human-like in appearance (they were made of protoplasm, not of metal). Their likeness to humans isn't a central plot point like in “Evidence”, but it is mentioned (“Sulla isn't a person, Miss Glory, she's a robot.”).


One of the earliest Sci-Fi movies with that theme is Fritz Lang's Metropolis, wherein one of the main characters is duplicated in appearance using a robot. Dates to 1927. In this one, the robot is in fact made to look exactly like the human character.

Wikipedia: Metropolis (film)


Lester Del Rey's "Helen O'Loy" (1938) beats out Evidence by a few years.

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