George Birkbeck

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Birkbeck, George (1776–1841). Son of a Yorkshire banker, Birkbeck qualified in medicine at Edinburgh and at 23 was appointed to succeed Thomas Garnett as second holder of the chair of natural philosophy (science) at the new Andersonian Institution in Glasgow. The course of free lectures he introduced on science for working men was highly successful, 500 attending with ‘striking regularity, good order, with the most ardent attention’. In 1823 these led to the foundation of the Glasgow Mechanics' Institute, with Birkbeck as patron. Birkbeck had moved to London in 1804 to obtain greater security and better remuneration and practised medicine with success. In 1824 he helped to found the London Mechanics' Institute, renamed the Birkbeck Institution in 1866, and Birkbeck College in 1907. With his friend Brougham he was one of the founders of the University of London and served on its council.

J. A. Cannon

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George Birkbeck, 1776–1841, English educator. He established (1800–1804) in Glasgow a popular course of lectures for workingmen, which led to the founding of the Glasgow Mechanics' Institution in 1823. He became (1824) president of the London Mechanics' Institution and was also a founder (1827) of University College of the Univ. of London. He did much to further popular scientific instruction in England. Birkbeck Laboratory at University College was established by gifts from his pupils.

See biographies by J. S. Godard (1884) and T. Kelly (1957).