In the mid-1400's, Johannes Müller von Königsberg (known widely by his Latin pseudonym Regiomontanus) was tearing things up, intellectually speaking, in his home country of Germany. He exhibited a high degree of intelligence in astrology, writing, astronomy and math, and he put it to use in his work on trigonometry and astronomical tables. Oh, and in building an automaton.
As with so many historical accounts, exact details of Regiomontanus's work are sparse. But as the story goes, he built a mechanical eagle that flew towards an approaching emperor, greeted him and then accompanied him as he entered the city.
It's easy to see why a ruler would be impressed by such a display. And the contraption helped to ensure that Regiomontanus would become known as one of the fathers of robotics.