The First Time Machine

While considering H.G. Well’s ‘The Time Machine,’ a question niggled, ‘Was Wells the first person to come up with the idea of a time machine?’ Surely the idea of going back in time has been around since humankind, I thought, as I imagined people regretting their deeds, and wishing to return in time to undo them. Yet a machine, that is something more, the idea to build, not a magical item, but a capable working object.

Two questions then come to mind, ‘How does one build the machine, out of what materials?’ and ‘What is the mechanism that allows the machine to travel through time?’

It turns out, that the first book about a time machine was by Enrique Gaspar. It was called ‘El Anacronópete’ and was published in 1887. Gaspar’s hero/scientist/inventor and possible madman, Don Sindulfo, explains how the machine will work, but before doing so how time works has to be explained. Time occurs because the planet earth moves from west to east. The planet moves this way because there are more volcanic eruptions on the eastern side, because of the radiation from the sun on that side. Then with ironically circular reasoning, he says, the earth moves in order to create time.

Nevermind, suspension of disbelief is always required when reading science fiction. In a way, it’s refreshing to be taken back to an age when this kind of imagining was happening. Besides, the anacronopete itself is charmingly brought alive in illustration, and has a great name which Don Sindulfo explains is from Greek, Ana meaning ‘backwards,’ crónos meaning ‘time,’ and petes meaning ‘he who flies.’

I will write more on this, as I learn what the machine is made out of, and how it works. I’m in the midst of reading it, you see.


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