200th Birkbeck Effect: Joseph Clinton Robertson, Founder of London Mechanics’ Institute

Joseph Clinton Robertson was a Scottish patent agent, writer and periodical editor. He was born into a comfortable nonconformist family and was considered a political radical, prominent in the debates within the Mechanics’ Institute movement.

He was a tricky character, however: easily offended, undeterred by legal threats and bankruptcy courts, and with a proclivity for fraud and blackmail. He was also a talented editor and passionate about the empowerment of working men.

In 1823, in his mid-thirties, Robertson founded the popular Mechanics’ Magazine, printed by John Knight and Henry Lacey. In the Mechanics Magazine Robertson first proposed the London Mechanics’ Institution but he later became a long-term critic of the Institution.


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