William Heath Robinson

British illustrator
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William Heath Robinson (31 May 1872 – 13 September 1944) was an English cartoonist, illustrator and artist. He is famous for drawing imaginary complicated machines for simple functions.[1]

W. Heath Robinson
Born(1872-05-31)31 May 1872
Islington, England
Died13 September 1944(1944-09-13) (aged 72)
London, England
Occupation(s)Illustrator, cartoonist and artist
Known forDrawings of weird machines

In the United Kingdom, a complicated machine which does simple things is called a "Heath Robinson contraption".[2]

A cartoon by W. Heath Robinson

William Heath Robinson was born in Hornsey Rise, London on 31 May 1872.[3] His family were artists. His father and brothers worked as illustrators.[4]

At first, he wanted to be a painter. However, he was not successful.[2] He started illustrating books. He made pictures and drawings for books. He illustrated books like Hans Christian Andersen's Danish Fairy Tales and Legends and The Arabian Nights. He published a book for children called The Adventures of Uncle Lubin in 1902. The book showed his imagination and sense of humor.[4]

He was asked to make illustrations for The Works of Mr Francis Rabelais. He made 254 black and white illustrations. The publisher went bankrupt in 1904. Robinson did not make a lot of money from the book.[5] He had to make money. He started making cartoons and illustrations for magazines.[4]

During the First World War, Robinson made satirical cartoons. He also drew impossible machines and weapons. These cartoons were enjoyed by the soldiers.[2] After the war, he made more cartoons and advertisements. From 1919 to 1928, The Bystander published more than 400 of Robinson's cartoons. In 1935, he made Railway Ribaldry for the Great Western Railway.[4]

Robinson died on September 13, 1944 because of a stroke. He is buried in the East Finchley Cemetery.[4]

Personal life


In 1899, he became engaged to Josephine Constance Latey. The couple were married on April 30, 1903.[4] His house in Moss Lane is marked by a blue plaque.[6]


  1. Bryant, Mark. World War I in Cartoons. London: Grub Street Pub, 2006, page 17, ISBN 190494356X
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 History – Historic Figures: William Heath Robinson (1872–1944) Archived 2019-10-27 at the Wayback Machine. BBC. Retrieved on 2011-05-06.
  3. Day, Langston (1976). The life and art of W. Heath Robinson. Wakefield: EP Pub. p. 17. ISBN 0715811800. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Heneage, Simon (2004). "Robinson, William Heath (1872–1944), cartoonist and illustrator". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35803. Retrieved 14 March 2022. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. Hamilton, James (1995). William Heath Robinson. London: Pavilion. ISBN 978-1-85793-604-9.
  6. "W. Heath Robinson". English Heritage. Retrieved 14 March 2022.

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