William Schlumberger

William Schlumberger

William Schlumberger

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William Schlumberger (1800 in Mulhouse – April 1838 in Havana) was a European chess master. He is known to have taughtPierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant to play chess and as the operator of The Turk, a chess-playing machine which purported to be an automaton. It was Bavarian musician and showman Johann Nepomuk Mälzel who hired him to operate The Turk. Schlumberger acted as the Turk's director in Europe and in the United States until his death from yellow fever in 1838.


The main source of information on William Schlumberger life is Willard Fiske’s book of the first American chess congress and, in particular, the section dedicated to “The history of the Automaton Chess-Player in America”. The brief biography given below is, unless otherwise indicated, taken from that publication.

Schlumberger was born in Mulhouse, Alsace, a region often fought over by France and Germany. He belonged to a wealthy family, and attained a very high education. He was considered very strong in Mathematics and he spoke not only French and German with which, as an Alsatian, he was equally familiar from childhood, but also in English. His own account of himself was, that he had entered upon the business life, for which he had been so carefully educated, in Paris, where he and his brother were put in charge of the dépôt of the family establishment at Mulhouse. He was thrown out of...
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