1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Birkbeck, George

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BIRKBECK, GEORGE (1776-1841), English physician and philanthropist, was born at Settle in Yorkshire on the 10th of January 1776. He early evinced a strong predilection for scientific pursuits; and in 1799, after graduating as doctor of medicine, he was appointed to the chair of natural philosophy at the Andersonian Institution of Glasgow. In the following year he delivered, for the benefit of the working-classes, a gratuitous course of scientific lectures, which were continued during the two following years and proved eminently successful. He removed to London in 1804, and there he endeavoured to prosecute his philanthropic schemes, at first without much encouragement, but ultimately with marked success. In 1823 he contributed to found the Mechanics’ Institute, the name of which was afterwards changed to Birkbeck Institution or College, in honour of its founder. He was appointed director of the institute, which he had originally endowed with the sum of £3700, and held the office till his death on the 1st of December 1841. The sphere of usefulness of the institution was gradually enlarged, and an enlargement of the buildings was carried out in 1883-1885. The college now holds day and evening classes in many of the sciences, in literature, languages and art.