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Heath Robinson

an absurdly-complicated device


Heath Robinson = Maschinen, deren Kompliziertheit in keinem Verhältnis zu ihrem banalen Nutzen steht; Heath Robinson (adj.) = irrwitzig kompliziert



British artist Matt Hope has designed a "breathing bicycle", a home-made HEATH ROBINSON contraption that filters air as you pedal along and feeds it through a tube into a fighter-pilot breathing mask.

(The Guardian)

Ever since a deadly explosion triggered the oil spill on April 20, all of British Petroleum's attempts to stem the flow have failed. The latest technique - firing mud, golf balls and other debris into the well - has now proved as hapless as the other HEATH-ROBINSON-style techniques it has employed without success.

(The Daily Mail)

Did you

Heath Robinson
noun, adjective

- used to describe a machine that is very cleverly made and is complicated in a silly or humorous way, but has no practical use


Heath Robinson was an English cartoonist and illustrator best known for drawings of ridiculously complicated machines for achieving simple objectives. First seen in the dictionary in about 1912, Heath Robinson-ish/esque/like means an "absurdly ingenious and impracticable device".

Heath Robinson's bizarre contraptions consisted of wheels, pulleys, counter-balanced ropes and weights - often powered by steam or musical instruments, or something else truly impractical. They were absurd - sometimes surreal.

His Multi-Movement Tabby Silencer - a device to spray water at noisy cats - comprised an extendable arm and a long stick, a wheel, numerous ropes (tied together in places), two candles, a mirror and a patterned china jug full of water. It took two people to operate, both hanging out of windows operating the machine with earnest intent and serious expressions.

"Your absurd, beautiful drawings... give me a peculiar pleasure of the mind like nothing else in the world."

(science fiction author H.G. Wells in a letter to Heath Robinson in 1914)


contraption, Rube Goldberg machine

Practice OWAD in a conversation today

"Jim has constructed a really cool HEATH ROBINSON solution, I hope it works."

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