“without…the duck of Vaucanson, you will have nothing to remind you of the glory of France.” - Voltaire.
The Canard Digérateur, Digesting Duck, or Vaucanson Duck was an automaton in the form of a duck, created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739. The mechanical duck appeared to have the ability to eat kernels of grain, and to metabolize and defecate them. While the duck did not actually have the ability to do this—the food was collected in one inner container, and the pre-stored feces was ‘produced’ from a second, so that no actual digestion took place—Vaucanson hoped that a truly digesting automaton could one day be designed.
The first image above shows the original Digesting Duck whilst the second is an illustration of how it was mistakenly thought to have worked.