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important studies, under the tuition der the direction of these gentlemen, of gentlemen, whose talents and when about eighteen, he left Leeds, learning qualified them for the ardu- / and repaired to Edinburgh, adopting ous task.
the plan of study, during the first Attaining the age of fourteen, he winter, which had been previously was placed under the care of Mr. | pointed out by Dr. Garnett. Here, Dawson,* of Sedbergh, a gentleman as he had also been strongly advised, well known as one of the most cele- | he joined the Royal Medical Society, brated mathematicians of bis day. although not at this time qualified to At this time he resided with a rela- | take any active part in its proceedtive, Mr. Robert Foster, of Hebble- ings. thwaite Hall, about three miles from From Edinburgh he repaired to Sedbergh, with whom, he being an London, where he spent the following accomplished scholar, he devoted his winter. His object in visiting the evenings to the study of the Greek metropolis was, that he might obtain and Latin languages, which he pro- more accurate anatomical information secuted with much advantage. Un- by dissection, than he had hitherto der the admirable tuition of Mr. Daw- acquired. To accomplish this purpose, son, he pursued his mathematical in- he entered as a pupil in the school of quiries with great ardour, and his the late Dr. Baillie, and had the happroficiency was correspondent to his piness of cstablishing a friendship application. During this period, he with that distinguished physician. made himself acquainted with the which only terminated with his life elementary branches of this science, | While here, he had also the advantage as they were taught in Cambridge, 1 of attending the excellent lectures of reading such works as were calcu Dr. Fordyce on the practice of physic, lated to improve his mind, among and of Dr. Pearson on chemistry. which were the Principia of Newton, Returning to Edinburgh the ensuand some of the more difficult fluxion- | ing season, he took a more active ary investigations.
part among the students, and also On leaving Sedbergh, after spend- became a member of the Natural ing in it and its neighbourhood, what History Society, to the chair of which. he has been known to consider one of as well as to that of the Royal Media the happiest and most instructive pe- cal Society, he had the honour, at the riods of his life, he returned to his na- commencement of the next session, to tive place; and soon afterward becom- be elected. ing acquainted with the late Dr. Gar- ! During the summer of 1797, he ata nett, who had also been a pupil of Mr. tended a short course of lectures on Dawson, he was induced, partly by his natural philosophy, delivered by Proown inclination, and partly through | fessor Robison, one of the most prothe recommendation of his friend, to found mathematicians of the age. The turn his attention to medicine, and interest which these lectures excited finally to adopt it as a profession,
| in Dr. B. soon attracted the notice of After spending some time with Dr. the professor, who regularly afterGarnett, then engaged in the analysis wards sent him a ticket of free admis. of mineral waters, and in the publica- sion, and permitted him to enjoy an tion of his Treatise on the Waters of intimate and confidential intercourse. Harrowgate, he proceeded to Leeds for About this time he had the good the purpose of acquiring a knowledge fortune to obtain the friendship of Dr. of pharmacy, with Mr., now Dr. Lo John Thomson, late professor of miligan, and of witnessing the practice of tary surgery in the University of the Infirmary, with that gentleman Edinburgh; and also of John Allen. and Dr. Hird.
Esq. the distinguished lecturer on the Having made his observations un- animal economy, now master of Dul
wich College. These were facilities • Of this justly celebrated self-taught ma
for the acquirement of valuable knowthematician, originally a shepherd in one of ledge, which he well knew how to an. the most retired districts of Yorkshire, Dr. | preciate and improve. Birkbeck is preparing a biographical
ing a biographical memoir, During the third winter of his resito be published with all his printed produce la tions, and a selection from bis manuscripts, to which, throggh the kindaess of Dr. Haygarth, nical clerk to Dr. Rutherford. This be bas had access.
occurrence he always considered as
Memoir of George Birkbeck, M.D.
of vast importance; since it afforded month of November, 1799, he comthe most valuable opportunity of ac- menced a course of lectures on naquiring, practical knowledge which at tural and experimental philosophy, that time he had ever enjoyed, and and the more interesting parts of chesecured for him, while he remained mistry. . in the university, an intimate associa To supply these lectures with the tion with this renowned and highly necessary apparatus, strenuous exerphilosophical professor.
tions were made; but from the want About this time, he also became ac- of an efficient philosophical instruquainted with the celebrated Henryment-maker, the greater part was Brougham, Esq. then a stndent in prepared under the superintendence Edinburgh, and had the happiness of of the lecturer, in the best conducted co-operating with him, with the late workshops that he could discover. Drs. Brown and Leyden, the late Mr. Being thus introduced to a directinHorner, Mr. Reddie, Professor Wal-tercourse with the artisans of Glasgow, lace, and others, in forming the Acade many of whom exhibited a degree of my of Physics. This society was at eager curiosity that had no means of first conducted with great spirit, but obtaining gratification, and a vigour of after some time was abandoned. intellect, for the cultivation of which
At the commencement of the ensu- no provision had been made, Dr. B. ing winter, the fourth he spent in very soon formed a plan for delivering Edinburgh, he had the gratification of a series of elementary philosopbical receiving another strong testimonial | lectures, adapted, as far as possible, of the high estimation in which he to the uptutored minds for which they was held by his fellow students, were designed, and to be offered to who, without his soliciting a single them free of all expense. The time vote, elected him a second time one which he selected for this purpose, of the annual presidents of the was on the evenings of Saturday, pruRoyal Medical Society. This was dently conceiving that it would at the more honourable, as it was a cir least be an admirable substitute for cumstance of very rare occurrence. the ordinary mode in which that porAt the close of this session, he under tion of their time was generally emwent the customary examinations for ployed, and concluding that if the attaking a degree in medicine; and, tempt should not otherwise prove after publishing and defending a che-| ultimately beneficial, the experiment mico - physiological dissertation de would at least be safe and rational. Sanguine, was admitted to that distin Having matured this plan, Dr. B., guished honour.
at their meeting in March, 1800, comOn quitting Edinburgh to return to municated his project to the trustees, Yorkshire, shortly after his graduation, in whom the management of the instiDr. Birkbeck spent a few days with an tution had been vested by the will of acquaintance at Peebles. While here, Professor Anderson, its founder. This be received a letter from Dr. Garnett, was a source, bowever, from which announcing bis appointment to the pro- no encouragement was to be derived, fessorship of natural philosophy in the and no assistance was to be obtained. Royal Institution, of London, and bis So far as the motive was concerned, Domination of Dr. B. as his successor the scheme procured commendation, in the chair at Glasgow, which he was but in other respects it excited smiles, about to relinquish. Not feeling, at so as the delusive vision of youthful early an age, entitled to expect great enthusiasm; and it was even derided, encouragement in medical practice, when considered in reference to the and wishing to spend a few more years individuals for whose benefit it had in the pursuit of additional informa- been introduced. Of these trustees, tion, Dr. B. thinking this a favourable many were intimately acquainted with opportunity to promote his views, con- the wants, the habits, and the capabisented to become a candidate. The lities of the artisans, yet not one was high testimonials, when this became disposed to express even a favourknown, voluntarily sent from many able opinion of the proposition. · distinguished characters in Edin- The session being concluded, Dr. burgh, secured the votes of a large B. returned to Yorkshire; and, in a majority of the trustees; and, after short prospectus sent for publication the lapse of a few weeks, in the 1 from thence, of the several courses to
be delivered in the next, introduced which cannot be perused by the people at: the following notice of the objects and large; thereby making them reach the shop expectations connected with the new
and the bamlet, and converting them from un
productive splendoar, to usefal though wmobscheme :
served activity." " In the prosecution of this design, I shall
The proper business of the institudeliver a series of lectures oplon tlie Mechanical Affections of solid and fluid Bodies, abound
tion having fully commenced, a print. ing with experiments, and conducted with the ed invitation was sent to the various greatest simplicity ofexpression and familiarity manufactories in Glasgow, for lists of of illustration, solely for persons etigaged in the more sober and intelligent workthe practical exercise of the mechanic arts :
men which each contained, with an pen, whose situation in early life, bas pre
offer of tickets, admitting them to the cluded even the possibility of acgairing the smallest portion of scientific knowledge, and mechanics' class. One individual, by whose subsequent pursuits, not always afford- whom these notices were principally ing more than is necessary for their own sup- distributed, then unknown to Dr. B., port and that of their dependent connexions, | now holds a respectable scientific sihave not enabled them to purchase that information, which cariosity, too active for penory
tuation, and still speaks with great wholly to repress, or the prevailing bias of satisfaction of having made this early their natural genius, might prompt them to effort in behalf of popular instituobtain. I am by no means sanguine in my | tions. expectation, that by a course of instruction,
In consequence of the notices that such as I have now proposed, one artist will he directed to the discovery of any thing
had been distributed, a few lists were which is essential or important in bis particu- sent in, and tickets having been delilar department, how much soever it may be vered to the individuals mentioned, connected in principle with the subject to be the course opened with seventy-five discu: am too well aware that the best
st pupils. The impressions made upon contrivances in every branch of the mechanic arts, bare resulted, and must still continue to
their minds may, in some measure, be, result, from the observation of practical de estimated from the next lecture being fects, and from the gradual application of suit attended by two hundred. At the able means, dictated by practical máxims, to ! third, upwards of three hundred were obviate or remove them. But whilst my
present; and, at the fourth, the namslight acquaintance with the subject bas af. forded this information, I have become con
ber amounted to five hundred. These vinced that much pleasure would be comma
the theatre could with difficulty connicated to the pic in the exercise of his tain, and many others had been reart, and that the mental vacancy which fol. | fused tickets, exclusively on this aclows a cessation from bodily toil, would ofter count. Nothing could exceed the at.' be agreeably occupied, by a few systematic pbilosophical ideas, upon wbich at his leisure
tention and interest with which these he might meditate. It must be acknowledged lectures were received; ana no auditoo, that greater satisfaction in the execution ence, ever assembled on any occasion, of machinery must be experienced, when the could exceed in propriety of behaviuses to which it may be applied, and the prin- | our this body of artisans and mechaciples upon which it operates, are well under
nics. stood, than where the manual part alone is krown, the artist remaining entirely ignorant
| During the progress of these lecof every thing besides ; indeed, I have lately tures, various letters were received had frequent opportunities of observing, with from the hearers. One contained a new how much additional alacrity a piece of work
plan for an air-pump, another for a lias been undertaken, when the circomstances
steam-engine, and one even for detervere such as I have now stated. “ Perhaps to some it may appear that the ad
mining the sun's distance by a new vantages derivable from these lectures will be method, from an individual, who, prior inconsiderable, or even that they will be disad- to his hearing the few lectures on vantageous, on account of the extent of the sub- astronomy, which made a part of the jects which they embrace, and because those to
first, as well as of the succeeding. whom they are addressed do not possess the means or enjoy the opportunities, calculated for
courses, had never thought upon this engrafting upon the elementary truths wbichi subject.* Their strong attachment to they learn, the extensive researches of the illustrious pbilosophers, by whom the boundaries of * It may be proper to correct an error science have been enlarged. Whatever the which Dr. Úre has onintentionally committed arrogance of learning may have advanced in in the Introduction to his excellent edition of condemnation of superficial knowledge, and Nicholson's Chemical Dictionary. He there however firmly I may be persuaded that the says, “ The original design of the Mechanics', people cannot be profound, I have no hesita Class was limited to the exhibition and explation in predicting, that vast benefit will accrae nation of mechanical models.” But we are to the community by every successful endea- assured by Dr.B. that the original design was, vour to diffuse the substance of great works, to give a plain, concise, and experimental ex
Memoir of George Birkbeck, M.D.
these lectures was further evinced, by which they were received, a vote of the very handsome present of a silver | thanks was presented to bim, accomcup, with an appropriate inscription panied with a request that he would and devices, delivered to the lecturer sit for his picture, to be suspended in on the termination of the course, by the library. With this solicitation he Mr. Roberson, an eminent mechanic, complied; and sat to Mr. Russel, on the part of the subscribers. These justly celebrated as a crayon painter, lectures were continued by Dr. B. and for his beautiful engraving of the for two sessions more, accompanied moon, who was then in Huli. But, throughout with similar manifestations unfortunately, when this picture was of the approbation of his hearers, from nearly finished, the artist was cut off their commencement to their termina- | by a fever. tion. These testimonials of respect In the following May, Dr. B. was and interest embraced his extensive married to Miss Catharine Lloyd, an mathematical and chemical course, as interesting and intelligent young lady, well as that which was popular or ex- the youngest daughter of Sampson perimental. In this situation Dr. B. Lloyd, Esq. of Farm, near Birmingcontinued until the spring of 1804, ham. Thus connected, after a few when he finally relinquished the pro-weeks spent in travelling, he came to fessorship in the Andersonian Insti London, pursuant to his original detution, and was succeeded by Dr. Ure, sign, and settled as a physician. Be. the present very able and eloquenting well known, and surrounded by lecturer.
an extensive circle of relations and In the autumn of this year, Dr. B., friends, whose confidence in his skill partly with a view of becoming ac- and assiduity was entire, bis daily inquainted with the manufactories of creasing practice rendered his prosBirmingham, and with the eminent pects flattering in the highest degree. scientific characters residing in that But no station in life can exempt town and neighbourhood, delivered a mankind from the common calamities course of lectures to the inhabitants, attendant on mortality. The sunshine on electricity, galvanism, and pneu- of his anticipations was obscured by matic chemistry, which he was indu- a dense and unexpected cloud, and ced by particular invitation to repeat his professional career was painfully in the spring.
interrupted by the death of his wife, Whilst residing in Birmingham, he in March, 1807, ten days after having received an invitation to deliver a given birth to a son. By this melancourse of lectures for the Literary choly event be was, for a season, Institution at Hall, on mechanical | nearly overwhelmed; but from its philosophy. This also be undertook; paralyzing effects he gradually recobut while the necessary apparatus vered, by resuming his professional was preparing, he occupied the inter- duties, and by attention to his child. val in delivering two courses of lec-For several years after this disastrous tures, similar to those of Birmingham, stroke, he proceeded in the active exin Liverpool. For the latter of these ercise of his profession; and, without he was kindly accommodated with using any dishonourable artifice or the rooms in the Lyceum, by the libe resorting to any unmanly expedients, ral proprietors of that valuable insti- | rapidly advanced to that point of tution.
eminence which he has so long since The necessary preparations having | attained. been made at Hull for his reception, A few months after his arrival in in the autumn of this year, Dr. B. re- London, Dr. B. was elected one of paired thitber, agreeably to his previ- the presidents of the Physical Society ous engagement, and delivered in the of Guy's Hospital, of which he had library one course of lectures to the recently been made an honorary memproprietors, and another to the public. ber; and in this situation, without Both were largely attended, and, as a any intermission, he has ever since proof of the high satisfaction with been annually placed. In the follow
ing year he was elected physician to hibition of the privciples of physical science, the General Dispensary, in Aldersvery much upon the plan of the popular courses of Ferguson, Walker, and 'Banks,
gate-street, the duties of which he but with more frequent reference to the arts
still continues, we believe, assiduousaud manufactures.
1 ly to perform
At an early period of his residence plement to the Encyclopedia Britanin the metropolis, he was strongly nica, by Mr. Dagald Bannatyne, one solicited by several members of the of the most enlightened and liberalRoyal Institution, to continue the minded individuals in Glasgow. The lectures on natural philosophy there, dissertation on the cotton manufacafter the resignation of Mr. Allen. tory, in which this notice occurs, has But although strongly attached to not, we have reason to believe, been the station he was solicited to fill, seen until very recently by Dr. B. the distance of the Institution from Speaking of what Dr. B. had done at that part of the city in which he re- the formation of the institution, Mr. sided, together with the pressure of Bannatyne proceeds as follows:his professional engagements, and a “The furnishing of these parties determination to pursue, without in with a course of instruction so well termission, for some time, his medical adapted to their circumstances, is proavocations, induced him to decline bably the best means that could have the invitation. About this time he been devised for reviving the power was also engaged with two medical which their early occupation in the friends in conducting the London Me- factories "may have rendered torpid. dical Review, which claimed no small But the benefit to be derived from share of his attention. This work these lectures is not confined to the was published quarterly; but although individuals to whom they are deliit was favourably received by the more vered. The branches of the manufacintelligent part of the profession, after ture in which those persons are emextending to two volumes, it was dis ployed, profit by them also. In the continued, through the extended oc- same degree that workmen are made cupation of its respective editors. acquainted with the principles of the
In July, 1817, Dr. B. married a se processes by which they are occupied, cond time. The object of his choice will be the probability that improvewas the youngest daughter of Henry ments shall be produced. So imporGardner, Esq. of Liverpool. This ami- tant, indeed, does the securing of this able lady, by her truly domestic habits object appear to us, in the present and affectionate disposition, has greatly circumstances of this country, that we augmented that happiness which can think the plan sketched by Dr. Birkalone render home desirable, by giving beck for Glasgow, should be generally to it those permanent attractions which extended, and the artisans all over the nothing foreign can impart.
kingdom be furnished with the means Having attained that eminence in / of receiving similar instructions. Were the medical profession to which he a national provision made for giving, aspired, Dr. B. determined again to in all the large manufacturing towns, enter the philosopbical region. Ac- such lectures upon mechanics, to which cordingly, the London Institution, of might be joined a short exposition of which he had been one of the earliest | the elements of chemistry, the most projectors, being ready for the deli- important consequences might be exvery of lectures, he offered to the ma-pected to ensue. The expense of such nagers a gratuitous course on natural an institution would be trilling, while and experimental philosophy. This means would be afforded of rearing, in offer was accepted, and in the spring every department of industry, a body of 1820 he delivered to large audiences of intelligent workmen, qualified to seventeen lectures. In 1823 he deli carry forward that progress in mavered a course on the history of the chinery which we have shewn to be atmosphere ; and, in 1824, a short necessary to the prosperity of our course on terrestrial magnetism and existing undertakings." electro-magnetism, both gratuitously, Independently of the preceding oband to crowded assemblies.
servations, Dr. B.'s attention was parDuring this period, having had only ticularly directed to the proceedings a slight connexion with Glasgow, he of the Mechanics' Class, by a letter heard very little of his favourite pro- from Glasgow, which appeared in the ject, the “ Mechanics' Class,” and half Morning Chronicle in the spring of concluded that he was nearly forgot- | 1822. This was more than sufficient ten. Some favourable notice had in- to convince him that his suspicions of deed been taken of it, and of its ope-being partially forgotten were wholly rations, in the third volume of the Sup-groundless, as the writer reverts in