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Before Rube Goldberg There Was Heath Robinson and His Outlandish Contraptions

W. Heath Robinson was an English cartoonist, illustrator, and artist, known for his elaborate yet unnecessary designs in his illustrations. Because of that, his name is now synonymous to “machines that are complicated, yet of no practical use.” Despite his rather “silly” creations, Robinson was considered to be a genius. He served as an inspiration to some of the greatest minds in his time.

During WWII, one of the codebreaking machines built to assist in the decryption of German message traffic (the predecessor to the world’s first programmable digital electric computer), was named “Heath Robinson” in his honour.
As a draughtsman, he predates America’s Rube Goldberg, who similarly became famous in the US for his illustration of complex devices linked to produce an amusing domino effect. By the 1920s, the term “Rube Goldberg” was being used in American print to describe some of the wilder inventions of the era, and by the 1960s, his name was added to the dictionary too. Heath-Robinson began his career as an illustrator much earlier however, with his first published works as a children’s illustrator in 1897.
At the outbreak of the First World War, he shifted pen towards cartoons, depicting unlikely secret weapons being used by the enemy. During wartime, he poked fun at the Germans and provided the public with humour when they needed it most… 

Here are some of his rather eccentric but beautifully drawn illustrations.

(Image Credit: Heath Robinson Museum)

(Image Credit: Messy Nessy)

(Image Credit: Messy Nessy)


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