Detrosier"s parents were Manchester merchant Robert Norris and a French woman named Detrosier. Before he started work aged nine, Detrosier had received only informal education, including that from the Manchester Benevolent Vegetarian Institute. Unfortunately, his appetite for learning reduced Detrosier to dire financial straights by 1821 and he was only rescued by the patronage of John Shuttleworth, who found him a more secure and responsible job as a clerk and salesman.
At this time, he also discovered his birth parentage.
Now, Detrosier had even more scope for education. In March 1829, Detrosier led a break-away from the Manchester Mechanics" Institute, which he considered to be undemocratic, and established the New Mechanics" Institution.
Detrosier attracted the further patronage of Francis Place who established him as a full-time lecturer. Shuttleworth arranged for the 1831 publication of On the Necessity of an Extension of Moral and Political Instruction among the Working Classes and his work attracted the attention of Jeremy Bentham and Anne Isabella Byron, Baroness Byron.
Detrosier"s new position in the liberal political establishment led him to work with health campaigner Thomas Southwood Smith.
Detrosier lectured on meteorology and pneumatics at the London Mechanics" Institute but was dismissed when he acted as interpreter for Gregorio Fontana and Gioacchino Prati"s campaign in England in 1833. However, he found a new sponsor in Robert Mordan and Detrosier made a living lecturing and writing. In 1834, he contracted a common cold and died at his home in London.
He left his body to science.
John Doherty sought his help in establishing trade unions but Detrosier was no socialist, believing that democracy posed real dangers unless individual moral development preceded political freedom.