Karel Capek was born on this day in 1890

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R.U.R.: a 1920 science fiction play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek
Common clues: Capek play; Play with robots; Capek classic; 1921 sci-fi play; Robot play; Play that introduced the word “robot”; Sci-fi drama set at an island factory

Crossword puzzle frequency: 3 times a year
RUR – Act 1

R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). However, the English phrase Rossum’s Universal Robots had been used as the subtitle in the Czech original. It premiered on 25 January 1921 and introduced the word "robot" to the English language and to science fiction as a whole.

A scene from R.U.R., showing three robots.

R.U.R. quickly became famous and was influential early in the history of its publication. By 1923, it had been translated into thirty languages.

The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people, called roboti (robots), out of synthetic organic matter. They are not exactly robots by the current definition of the term; these creatures are closer to the modern idea of cyborgs, androids or even clones, as they may be mistaken for humans and can think for themselves. They seem happy to work for humans at first, but that changes, and a hostile robot rebellion leads to the extinction of the human race. Čapek later took a different approach to the same theme in War with the Newts, in which non-humans become a servant class in human society.

R.U.R. is dark but not without hope, and was successful in its day in both Europe and North America.

The play introduced the word Robot, which displaced older words such as "automaton" or "android" in languages around the world. In an article in Lidové noviny Karel Čapek named his brother Josef as the true inventor of the word. In Czech, robota means forced labour of the kind that serfs had to perform on their masters' lands, and is derived from rab, meaning "slave."

The name Rossum is an allusion to the Czech word rozum, meaning "reason," "wisdom," "intellect" or "common-sense." It has been suggested that the allusion might be preserved by translating "Rossum" as "Reason," but only the Majer/Porter version translates the word as "Reason".

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "R.U.R.".