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Houdin, Jean Eugène Robert or Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin 1805–71, French conjurer and magician. Originally a clockmaker, he was celebrated for his optical illusions and mechanical devices and for his attributing his “magic” to natural instead of supernatural means. Houdin was the first to use electromagnetism for his effects

Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin Houdin, the French performer widely considered the father of modern magic.

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Jean Eugene Robert was bitten by the magic bug just as he was entering his family’s clockmaking business in the French town of Blois. The young man enjoyed entertaining his friends with sleightof-hand tricks, but at first gave no thought to performing p r o f e s s i o n a l l y. At twenty-four, he married the daughter of a prominent Parisian clockmaker, soon adding their family name to his own and opening his own clockmaking studio in Paris with the backing of his father-in-law.

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During these years the clockmaker made mental notes about what he would do and not do if he ever took the stage himself. Particularly influential were Comte, a favorite of the French Kings and owner of his own theater, and Philippe, whose utilization of electricity would have the greatest impact on Robert-Houdin.

Living in the French capital allowed RobertHoudin to more fully indulge his interest in magic, and he eagerly caught every performance he could while developing friendships with a number of amateur and professional magicians.

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Dynamo Tipped as the most exciting British magician

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He’s seemingly come out of nowhere but Dynamo has been wowing celebs and punters alike for years with his close-up card tricks and matrix-style levitation moves. He recently walked on water across the river Thames in front of goggleeyed tourist but that was just the tip of the iceberg expect plenty more spectacular stunts from this hip Houdini. The story of an ordinary boy from Bradford living an extraordinary life. Like his dear gran...dfather before him, Dynamo grew up practising precision card-handling and developing powerful magical skills. In Dynamo: Magician Impossible, his very first television series, the 28-year-old travels the globe as the unassuming anti-hero who just happens to astound everyone he meets, whether international footballer or Hollywood actor.

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Discovery of Magic

Robert-Houdin’s career as a great magician was limited to just eleven years. But in this time his great contribution to magic brought new dimensions to the craft as his inventiveness awarded his the title “Father of Modern Magic”.

His originality was aided by his vast knowledge of the intricacies of clockmaking; it was his understanding of complex mechanisms which led to his development of “Automata”. Not only would his “Automata” increase the range of tricks that could be performed, they would enhance the drama and showmanship of his magic

Being one of the first magicians to utilise electricity in his act, Robert-Houdin took magic onto a higher and more spectacular platform, setting himself apart from other magicians of his time.

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Science Science and technology very much influenced the inventions of Robert-Houdin. In his autobiography, he writes about consulting scientists and conducting experiments to figure out how to perform a particular trick. He also kept up with recent scientific developments. Jean-Eugène RobertHoudin was one of the first people to find a use for electromagnetism. He created a new trick called “The Light and Heavy Chest.” He invited a spectator on stage to lift the small wooden box he said he kept to store his money. His volunteer always did this easily. Then the magician commanded the box to stay where it was, so it could not be stolen. No matter how hard the volunteer tried after that, he couldn’t move it. Hidden inside the wooden chest was a metal plate, and an electromagnet sat under the stage. When his assistant turned on the magnet, the strong attraction made it impossible to move the chest. Robert-Houdin wrote in his autobiography that at this time “the phenomena of electromagnetism were wholly unknown to the general public. I took very good care not to enlighten my audience as to this marvel of science.” But it didn’t last. According to Robert-Houdin, “At a later period, when electromagnetism had become more generally known, I thought it advisable to make an addition to the Light and Heavy Chest in order to throw the public off the scent...”

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When his audiences learned about electromagnetism, Robert-Houdin totally changed his performance of the trick. He had three volunteers raise the light box off the floor using a rope and pulley system. Then he would command the box to become heavy and it would sink to the floor, raising the three men holding the rope up off the stage. In his autobiography, Robert-Houdin said that he performed this same trick in an entirely different way in 1856. The French government asked him to travel to French-occupied Algeria. Robert-Houdin wrote that they feared that Algerian magicians who could eat glass and apparently heal wounds would encourage the Algerians to rise up and fight the French soldiers. They wanted RobertHoudin to perform for the Algerians, hoping to convince them that the French magician had even greater power.

Robert-Houdin usually entertained the people who came to see his show, but this time he was supposed to frighten the Algerians in his audience. He wrote that in Algeria, he invited a very strong man up on stage and claimed that he would use his powers to make that man so weak that the man would be unable to lift this small box. Robert-Houdin wrote that he could lift it easily but the man could not because the magician had turned on the electromagnet. He said he also rigged the handle of the box with electricity, so it gave the man an electric shock which sent him running from the stage.

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Career

1805 – 1871

Robert-Houdin’s career as a great magician was limited to just eleven years. But in this time his great contribution to magic brought new dimensions to the craft as his inventiveness awarded his the title “Father of Modern Magic”. His originality was aided by his vast knowledge of the intricacies of clockmaking; it was his understanding of complex mechanisms which led to his development of “Automata”. Not only would his “Automata” increase the range of tricks that could be performed, they would enhance the drama and showmanship of his magic. Being one of the first magicians to utilise electricity in his act, Robert-Houdin took magic onto a higher and more spectacular platform, setting himself apart from other magicians of his time.

In addition, Robert-Houdin brought class to Magic. When he walked on wasn’t fashioned as his contemporaries and predecessors (generally in wiza but attired in evening dress. He brought charm, charisma and class to Audiences would deck themselves in their finery to enjoy his performances this Robert-Houdin brought the upper class family parlour atmosphere to th

Robert-Houdin’s magic, thought innovative, achieved fam enhancing tricks originated by his predecessors. One su act. Not a characteristic mechanical propped trick, “Seco of his son, identifying items, belonging to the audience, blindfolded. It was in fact another magician’s act that saw R

To add to his credits, in 185 The French seconded the magic faction in Algeria who were us he did! He proved his illusions

Robert-Houdi box he demo man they cou box, which he whilst under discover the the box with

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stage, he ard robes) the stage. and with he theatre.

me through contributing to and uch trick was his “Second Sight” ond Sight” involved the assistance selected by Robert-Houdin whilst Robert-Houdin become a sensation.

56 Robert-Houdin prevented a rebellion in Algeria! cian to discredit the Marabouts, an Arab religious sing magic to incite a rebellion, and discredit them were more powerful than those of the Marabouts..

in presented his devil fearing Arab audience with his “Light and Heavy Box”. With this onstrated the illusion that he had in his power, the ability to deprive the most powerful uld offer of all his strength. This illusion was achieved by firstly inviting him to lift the e would do successfully. Robert-Houdin then placed him under a trance, explaining he would be deprived of his strength. Then, the participant was, to his horror, to previously simple task was now impossible. This was actually achieved by building an iron bottom, attached firmly to the spot by an electromagnet built into the stage. Also, for further demonstration of his unfathomable magic powers, Robert-Houdin administered electric shocks to the participant when in contact with the box’s brass handles. This trick and a selection of other amazing demonstrations of Robert-Houdin’s magical powers served to cease talks of rebellion. During his eleven years of show business notoriety, Robert-Houdin’s contribution to magic was marked by his fame, his innovation and above all, the saving of human lives. Though he left this world in 1871, his innovation, repertoire and showmanship lives on in the world’s theatres of today.

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