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Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin was born in Blois, and was watchmaker and clockmaker by trade. In the mid 1820's, after purchasing two books on clockmaking by Ferdinand Berthoud, Robert-Houdin arrived home and after unwrapping the books discovered that he had been given two books on 'Scientific Amusements' - magic and conjuring. Rather than returning the books, he learned and practiced from them and alongside his studies in horology, he sought to continue his newfound pastime.
Robert-Houdin, after some personal struggles, eventually moved to Paris where he started working as a clockmaker for his father-in-law. However, his interest in magic grew in the busy city, and he began to combine his clockmaking skills and knowledge of mechanics with the world of magic. As well as reportedly performing privately as a magician to Queen Victoria, Robert-Houdin is credited with the invention of the mystery clock and an automaton for writing.
Robert-Houdin became the first magician to advocate the wearing of formal dress during performances, and he was so widely revered that he toured much of Europe entertaining audiences with his magic. He also inspired the stage name of Ehrich Weiss, the famous magician who became known as Harry Houdini in his honour.