The Glasgow Mechanics' Institution was formed in July 1823, as the result of a dispute between members of the mechanics' class and the managers of Anderson's Institution over Dr Andrew Ure's lectures, and access to the library and museum. George Birkbeck encouraged this schism and agreed to be patron of the new institution, which was the second mechanics' institution founded in Great Britain. A mechanics' class continued to be offered at Anderson's Institution after 1823 and the members of the class continued in dispute with Dr Ure over his lectures.
After a period in temporary premises in Shuttle Street, the Glasgow Mechanics' Institution moved in 1831 to North Hanover Street to a building provided by John Leadbetter, a Glasgow businessman and former student of Anderson's Institution. In 1862, the Mechanics' Institution moved to a new building at 38 Bath Street.
The opening lecture was delivered on 5 November 1823 by John Steele, Lecturer in Chemistry and Mechanics, and in later years the Institution offered courses in science and mechanics, architectural and mechanical drawing, mechanical and electrical engineering and naval architecture. On 13 May 1881 the Mechanics' Institution changed its name to the College of Science and Arts and in 1887, with Anderson's College and other institutions, it became part of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College.