| Spoiler warning!|
This article contains plot details that people who haven't experienced the source material yet might wish to avoid.
|“|| Nature has found only one method of organizing living matter. There is, however, another method, more simple, flexible, and rapid, which has not yet occurred to nature at all. This second process by which life can be developed was discovered by me today.||”|
— Rossum, R.U.R.
|Average height||Same as humans|
Sentient (later models)
|Language||Any human language|
|Place of origin||Unnamed island where Rossum made his factory|
|Behind the Scenes|
|Created by||Karel Čapek|
The Robots (female: Robotesses) are a race of artificially-constructed organic beings whose outward appearance is indistinguishable from humans. They were originally created by a scientist named Rossum in the 1930s, who devised a way to synthesize a protoplasmic substance which behaved similarly to organic tissues, and from which he could create bone, girdle, muscle, skin, nerves, enzymes and so on.
Although externally indistinguishable from humans, the Robots created by the R.U.R. factory have an extremely simplified internal anatomy in order to facilitate their production. They're created in large numbers; are as intelligent as they need to be depending on what they will be employed as; and have a limited lifespan of about 20 years. They are also physically much stronger than humans.
Initially, the Robots were completely non-sentient, i.e.: incapable of experiencing pain or pleasure. Later, new models would be produced with the capacity for sensations so that they would be better able to avoid hurting themselves while performing dangerous tasks. Although male Robots and female Robotesses are built, they have no interest in the matters of love, sex or romance, and do not reproduce on their own.
While Rossum originally attempted to create an exact replica of man, his efforts were proved impractical and he spent years and even decades on each experiment. This changed after Rossum's nephew, a trained engineer, devised a way to simplify the Robots' anatomy and make them easier to produce for commercial purposes. The older Rossum was opposed to this as his motives were purely scientific, rather than capitalistic. Although later history books were fond of describing the two Rossums as collaborators, what truly happened is that they became estranged and the R.U.R. factory came to be mostly as a result of the younger one's efforts, with the only collaboration from the older Rossum being the formula for the protoplasm - one that has remained secret to all but a few select individuals and has been deemed almost impossible to replicate. Produced exclusively by R.U.R., the Robots were sold internationally as laborers and were legally treated not as persons, but as mere property of their owners.
At some point after the death of both Rossums, the factory was managed by Harry Domin, whose wife, Helena, was a former activist for the rights of Robots until she came to see how they lived and realized that they truly had no desires of any kind, not even for happiness or comfort, as they simply did what they were told and were basically devoid of instincts or emotions. Since the Robots had all the intellect of a human being but couldn't experience life as one, Helena took pity on them and later managed to convince Head of Physiological Department Dr. Gall to create new types of Robots, which would be capable of experiencing emotions. Gall agreed to this, solely because he was in love with Helena, but sadly, this ended up being their ruin. The new Robots started to question why they should take orders from humans. A particularly intelligent Robot called Radius managed to mobilize the entire race into a grand rebellion against humans, leading to a global war of annihilation. During this time, however, Helena burned Rossum's papers containing the formula for the creation of Robots. After all humans were killed with the exception of an R.U.R. employee called Alquist - who had no scientific training whatsoever - the Robots found that they couldn't make more of their own and were doomed to extinction.
However, the ending of the play suggests that two of the latest Robots created by Dr. Gall - a male called Primus and a female named after Helena - had by that point become human enough to fall in love with each other, and that they might be capable of reproducing and possibly repopulating the world after the regular chaste Robots eventually die out. Alquist is hopeful that this will be so and refers to the couple as the new Adam and Eve.
- R.U.R., by Karel Čapek (1920)
- The word robot was originally created by the author's brother, Josef Čapek, derived from the Czech word "robota" ("labour"). The word was later popularized by other authors to refer to mechanical beings (the kind of which were mostly known as "automatons" in Čapek's time), even though Čapek's robots are not mechanical but synthetically-organic. Nowadays "robot" has become the most popular word to refer to mechanical life-like machines and, in science fiction, to actual mechanical life.