John Joseph Merlin, Belgian inventor and mechanic, c 1770.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by G P H after his original drawing, showing a portrait of Merlin and an ornate two-wheeled carriage. John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803), the eccentric Belgian inventor, began his career as a mathematical instrument maker in Paris. In 1760 he moved to London and founded 'Merlin's Mechanical Museum'; a place of entertainment and a saleroom for his inventions. In the same year, he invented the first roller skates, and then in the late 1700s, a sedan-chair with two wheels, known as the 'Merlin Chair', which became particularly popular in the spa town of Bath. Published by R S Kirby & I Scott, London on 3 July, 1803.