John Clark’s Latin Verse Machine: 19th Century Computational Creativity

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John Clark was inventor of the Eureka machine to generate hexameter Latin verse. He labored for 13 years from 1832 to implement the device that could compose at random over 26 million different lines of well-formed verse. This article proposes that Clark should be regarded as an early cognitive scientist. Clark described his machine as an illustration of a theory of “kaleidoscopic evolution” whereby the Latin verse is “conceived in the mind of the machine” then mechanically produced and displayed. We describe the background to automated generation of verse, the design and mechanics of Eureka, its reception in London in 1845 and its place in the history of language generation by machine. The article interprets Clark's theory of kaleidoscopic evolution in terms of modern cognitive science. It suggests that Clark has not been given the recognition he deserves as a pioneer of computational creativity.

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Jill Walker Rettberg