An Engineer’s Education
Robert Paul was the oldest of five children, born to a London shipping agent and a clergyman’s daughter in Islington in 1869. The family moved around London, while Robert seems to have been the only one to benefit from a public school education at the City of London, which was also among the first in Britain to offer science. He progressed to a new college, the Finsbury Technical, bringing him into contact with electrical pioneers such as Silvanus Thompson and William Ayrton, who would help him start in business on his own account in 1891, repairing and soon inventing instruments for the emerging electricity industry. By the end of 1895, both Paul and his former associate Acres were at work developing projectors that functioned like magic lanterns, throwing moving pictures on a screen. Paul premiered his Theatrograph in February 1896 on the same day as the first Lumière Cinématographe demonstration in London. Another of his shows led to Paul being hired to screen a programme at Olympia, soon followed by his projector appearing at the Egyptian Hall on Piccadilly, and then at the Alhambra music hall, next door to the Cinématographe at the Empire, both in Leicester Square.
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