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Detail of the three screens of the nose cone. A pigeon was behind each screen.

Nose Cone, Pigeon-Guided Missile

From Pavlov's dogs to Skinner's pigeons
This experimental device was developed during World War II by behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner, who experimented with harnessing pigeons' pecking movements to steer missiles. Skinner divided this nose cone into three compartments, and proposed strapping a pigeon in each one. As a bomb headed towards earth, each pigeon would see the target on its screen. By pecking at the image, the birds would activate a guidance system that would keep the bomb on the right path until impact. Skinner's idea received initial support, but the U.S. military finally dismissed it as impractical.

One Skinner-trained bird pecked at an image more than 10,000 times in 45 minutes.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner, born March 20, 1904, Susquehanna, PA; died August 18, 1990, Cambridge, MA
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