In 1770, in the imperial court of Vienna, one of the most extraordinary and baffling hoaxes in history was set in motion.
As soon as it was unveiled to the cries of shocked courtiers, the Mechanical Turk became a sensation: a life-sized clockwork figure dressed in Eastern costume that, somehow, could play world-class chess. For decades this incredible automaton confounded audiences across Europe and America. It trounced grand masters, outwitted Napoleon, defeated Benjamin Franklin and was even said to have stopped Catherine the Great from cheating.
What was its secret? Could a machine really think? During its checkered career the Turk sparked frenzied speculation and often downright fabrication, but now the real truth can finally be revealed . . .