10 Historical Robots

Da Vinci's Mechanical Lion
It isn’t surprising that da Vinci, known for both his studies of anatomy and his mechanical creations, would have turned his hand to creating an automaton. © Alinari Archives/CORBIS

In the early 1500s, near the end of his life, Leonardo Da Vinci was commissioned to create an automaton for King Francois I. The multi-talented Renaissance man didn't disappoint.

He built a mechanical lion with the ability to walk. Upon reaching its destination, a compartment in the fully automatic lion's chest opened, revealing a fleur-de-lis (a stylized lily) in honor of the French monarchy.

Unsurprisingly, the lion was lost or destroyed at some point in history. In 2009, though, another mechanical tinkerer named Renato Boaretto drew inspiration from Da Vinci's lion and made his own version, which walked, swayed its tail, moved its jaws and, of course, had a secret compartment that opened to reveal a fleur-de-lis.

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