Rossum's Universal Robots (R.U.R.)
Czech science fiction play with a legendary title.
Written by influential Czech satirist Karel Capek, R.U.R. coined the term practically the entire world now uses to indicate machines that perform human tasks - robot.
First performed in Prague in 1921, and then in London in 1923, the play presents a world which first exploits its new servile creations, and is then dominated by them. Although now taken to mean machines, Capek's robots are seemingly genetically engineered creatures that, while conscious, are completely subservient.
Apparently inspired by his painter brother Joseph, Capek used the word robot to describe them, as in Czech and Slovak the term evokes ideas of 'servitude' or 'drudgery'. An allegory about the ethics of consumerism, industrialisation, communism and revolution, R.U.R is also in some senses a reworking of the Hebrew legend of the Golem.
The BBC televised a 38-minute adaptation in 1938 - probably the first ever example of science fiction television. A full 90-minute dramatisation was broadcast in 1948, but sadly neither version survives.
Oddly, no cinematic version has thus far been produced, although the idea of the robot is now central to science fiction, as well as contemporary society.
Work nominated by Ronsonlighter.