This photograph shows a portrait of George Birkbeck by Samuel Lane. George Birkbeck M.D (1776–1841) was British physician, academic, philanthropist and pioneer in adult education. Born in Settle, Yorkshire, he qualified as a doctor in Edinburgh in 1799, aged 23. Before practising as a doctor, he initially embarked on an academic career. In 1799 he was appointed as Professor of Natural Philosophy at Anderson's College in Glasgow, where he began providing free classes for working-class men in mechanics and chemistry. In 1804 Birkbeck became a doctor in London. He continued his interest in working class education and with others he established the London Mechanics Institute, of which he was the first President from 1823-1841. After his death, the London Mechanics’ Institute was renamed in his honour - first as he Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution, in 1866 and then, in 1907, as Birkbeck College. George Birkbeck was also a patron of the Glasgow Mechanics Institute, President of the British Meteorological Society, and helped to create the first chemistry laboratory for undergraduates at University College London.


  • Title: George Birkbeck, founder of Birkbeck College
  • Creator: Samuel Lane (1780-1859)
  • Date Created: c. 1825
  • Location: London, United Kingdom
  • Physical Dimensions: 123cm x 98.5 cm
  • Provenance: Presented to the college by executors of the will of the late Mrs Florence Birkbeck, 1955
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Out of copyright
  • External Link: Birkbeck, University of London
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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