John Nevil Maskelyne
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and a descendant of he Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne.
Maskelyne first became interested in conjuring after watching a performance of the Davenport Brothers. With the help of friend and cabinet maker George Alfred Cooke, they built a "spirit cabinet". Together, they exposed the Davenport Brothers to the public at a show in Cheltenham in June 1865.
Inspired by the acclaim they received, the two men decided to become professional magicians. William Morton, who saw their show in Liverpool, offered to finance a tour. Morton ended up as their manager for twenty years and helped them become firmly established on the national stage, including residencies as the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly from 1873 to 1904.
Maskelyne and Cooke invented many tricks still used today. Maskelyne was adept at working out the principles of illusions, one of his best-known being levitation.
Upon Cooke's death in February 1905, Maskelyne started a partnership with David Devant. Devant had first joined Maskelyne's team in 1893, when he auditioned as a replacement for Charles Morritt, a conjurer and inventor who had worked with Makelyne at the Egyptian Hall but left to set up his own show.
Maskelyne was a member of The Magic Circle and worked to dispel the notion of supernatural powers. To this end, in 1914, Maskelyne founded the Occult Committee to "investigate claims to supernatural power and to expose fraud". In particular, the committee attempted to prove that the Indian Rope Trick has never been performed.
In the 19th century, Maskelyne invented a lock for London toilets, which required a penny to operate, creating the first pay toilets.