George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (11 October 1778 – 29 February 1860) was a British musician, of African descent. He was a virtuoso violinist who lived in England for much of his life. His playing impressed Beethoven, who made Bridgetower the original dedicatee of his Kreutzer Sonata after they presented its premiere performance.
George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower was born on 11 October 1778, in Biała Podlaska, Poland where his father worked for Prince Hieronim Wincenty Radziwiłł. He was baptised Hieronimo Hyppolito de Augusto on 11 October 1778.
His father, John Frederick Bridgetower (né Joannis Friderici de Augusto Æthypois), was probably a West Indian (possibly from Barbados), although he also claimed to be an African prince, as stated in George's baptismal record. From 1779 John Frederick was a servant of the Hungarian Prince Esterházy, the patron of Joseph Haydn.
George's mother, Maria Anna Ursula Schmidt, was from Swabia, now in Germany, described as a "Polish lady of quality", from the "noble Polish House of Schmidt". She was later possibly a domestic worker in the household of Sophie von Thurn und Taxis, who married Prince Hieronim Wincenty Radziwiłł in 1775. George moved to London at an early age and was performing as a violin soloist at the Drury Lane Theatre by the age of 10.
He exhibited considerable talent while still a child and gave successful violin concerts in Paris, London, Bath and Bristol in 1789. In 1791, the British prince regent, the future King George IV, took an interest in him and oversaw his musical education.
At the Prince's direction, he studied under François-Hippolyte Barthélémon, the leader of the Royal Opera, with Croatian-Italian composer Giovanni Giornovichi, and with Thomas Attwood, organist at St Paul's Cathedral and professor at the Royal Academy of Music.
Bridgetower performed in around 50 concerts in London theatres, including Covent Garden, and the Haymarket Theatre, between 1789 and 1799, and he was employed by the Prince to perform in his orchestra in Brighton and London. In the spring of 1789, Bridgetower performed to great acclaim at the Abbaye de Panthemont in Paris, with Thomas Jefferson and his family in attendance.