Robot is 100! UCLA Library International Studies online exhibition to celebrate 100 years of KAREL ČAPEK'S R.U.R 

Czech writer Karel Čapek introduced the word "robot" to the world with his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) or Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti on January 20th, 1921. Čapek was born on Jan. 9, 1890 in Bohemia, Austria-Hungary, now the Czech Republic, and is known for his philosophical stories and plays which addressed themes of technology, authoritarian governments, and the struggle for human freedom. Čapek’s robots were no exception; the word itself means "forced labor” or “worker” in Czech. The play's themes deeply resonate with contemporary debates over the social implications of artificial intelligence and the work continues to spark innovative projects like a performance with humanoid robots as actors and 3Ai Institute educational resources.

International Playbills and Book Covers

R.U.R was eventually translated into over 50 languages. These book covers and playbills illustrate how its themes were interpreted around the world.

This flyer advertises the play's premiere in Prague. R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), By Karel Čapek, directed by Vojta Novák, theatrical set by Bedřich Feuerstein, costumes by Josef Čapek. Czech National Theater, January 25, 1921.
Čapek, Karel. Divadelní hry Karla Čapka (Theatre plays of Karel Čapek: Drama), volume 2, part 4 published by Aventinum - Praha. Cover designed by Josef Čapek. Ot. Štorch-Marien, Prague: 1922. 2. Čapek,
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), By Karel Čapek, directed by J. Kodíček , theatrical set by V. Hofman. November 12.
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), By Karel Čapek, The Theatre Guild, The Ford's Theatre, Washington DC, October 28, 1923.
Čapek Karel. Kanbara Tai Robotto. Cover designed by Kanbara Tai. Translated by Suzuki Zentaro. Tokyo: Kinseido, 1924.
This Korean translation of R.U.R appeared in four installments in the magazine Gaebyok in Seoul in 1925.
Čapek, Karel. Muzika, František. R.U.R., Prague: František Borovy, 1935.
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), By Karel Čapek, Translated by David Short, Alpenrose Opera House, Portland, OR, April 25-27.
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), By Karel Čapek, Russian edition from 1924
RUR: La Fábrica de Absoluto, By Karel Čapek, Barcelona: Minotauro, 2003
ロボット (R.U.R), By Karel Čapek, Tokyo: 岩波書店, 2003.
A Fábrica de Robos, By Karel Čapek
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), By Karel Čapek, Lydia Mendelsson Theatre, March 6-9.
Čapek, Karel. R.U.R. (Robots Universales Rossum). Translated by Consuelo Vázquez de Parga. Libros Mablaz, April 1, 2017.
R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots): A Collective Drama With a Comic Prologue and in Three Acts from the Czech Writer Karel Čapek], translated to Filipino by Guelan Varela-Luarca (Central Book Supply Inc., 2016), from the English version by Claudia Novack
Yutaka Watanabe. “R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots).” Warahata, May 25, 2020.
Learn more about Karel Čapek's life and R.U.R with these resources from the UCLA Libraries and the web.
Robots in Film and Television

100 years after its premiere, R.U.R's themes are still apparent in science fiction novels, television shows, and films around the world. R.U.R. was never made into film neither in the Czech Republic or anywhere else, but its themes persist. R.U.R and the stories that followed it illustrate how the history of technology is influenced by distinct cultural contexts, from the Soviet Union to Japan to the contemporary United States. Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis on the left explores themes of industrialization, modernity, and authoritarianism in the post World War I context.

The robots in 1935 Soviet film Робот Джима Рипль (Loss of Sensation) by Alexandr Andriyevsky display the name "R.U.R."

The 1977 Doctor Who episode "The Robots of Death" includes a character named Taren Capel who incites robots to betray their human masters, echoing R.U.R.
Ridley Scott's iconic 1982 film stars bioengineered humanoids known as replicants who mirror R.U.R's robots by forcing the audience to question what it means to be human.
1984 Czech sci-fi comedy film Babičky dobíjejte přesně (Grandmothers Recharge Well!) directed by Ladislav Rychman, tells the story of two families with Grandmother inspired robots who eventually revolt against their masters.
Paul Verhoeven's 1987 superhero robot film Robocop turns a murdered police officer into a crime fighting robot. The film follows R.U.R in contemplating identity and the robot's residual humanaity.
Mamoru Oshii's groundbreaking 1995 cyberpunk anime film Ghost in the Shell follows the Major, a cyborg in search of a dangerous hacker. Oshii hoped to convey the power and influence of technology in the present world through the film.
1973 film Westworld takes place in a Western themed amusment park staffed by androids who cater to human desires but cannot harm their guests. It was adapted into a television series in 2016.
Joss Whedon's televsion show Dollhouse revolves around the employees of the Rossum Corporation, named after the play. The show's "dolls" have their memories wiped and saved on hard drives and are given artificial personalities.
Animated science fiction television show Futurama includes an episode called "Fear of a Bot Planet" where the cast visits the planet "Chapek 9" where only robots live.
Explore the themes of artificial intelligence and what makes us human in this critically acclaimed robot novels and short stories available at UCLA libraries and online.


This exhibit was created by UCLA Library International Studies Department librarian Alena Aissing and Library Student Research Assistant Julia Tanenbaum in partnership with Czech Consulate of Los Angeles with imput and materials from Consular Affairs Officer Aneta Campbell and Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles Amb. Jaroslav Olša, Jr.