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Sir Hans Sloane - Prominent Natural Historian

Guest Author - Deborah Watson-Novacek

During his lifetime, Sir Hans Sloane collected more than 71,000 objects which were later bequeathed to the British people. This collection became the founding collection of the British Museum.


Sir Hans Sloane - The Early Years

Sir Hans Sloane was born to a well-known family in Killyleagh, Ireland on April 16, 1660. His father had headed up a Scottish Colony which had been sent there by King James I.

In his youth, Sloane became fascinated with natural history. This interest spurred him to the study of medicine, as well as chemistry, anatomy, botany and pharmacy. At the end of his studies in London, he undertook a sight-seeing and collecting tour of France, followed by his taking an M.D. degree at the University of Orange in 1683. Sloane is one of the few people in history to receive a medical degree without having first earned a Bachelor's degree.

Many of the items Sloane collected were forwarded to eminent scientists of the time - John Ray and Robert Boyle. John Ray, was a scientist now considered the "father of natural history" in Britain. Robert Boyle was a philosopher, chemist, physicist and inventory, and is known today as the first "modern chemist" and one of the pioneers of the modern experimental scientific method.


Hans Sloane in Jamaica
Based on his collections and his association with John Ray and Robert Boyle, Sloane was soon elected to the Royal Society - a prestigious British scientific group. Then, in 1687, he was made a Fellow of the College of Physicians. Subsequently, Sloane was able to obtain a position as physician in the household of the Duke of Albemarle and travelled with Albemarle to Jamaica.

As the first naturalist to visit Jamaica, Sloan described upwards of 800 new plant species during his fifteen month stay. He published a catalogue of his findings in 1696. He also made extensive notes on local customs, local fauna, and earthquakes.


Hans Sloane's Return to England
When the Duke of Albermarle died in 1689, Dr. Sloane returned to England with Albermarle's widow. For some five years he remained in the employ of the Duchess as her personal physician. He also set up a medical practice at his home and his patient list included Queen Anne, King George I and King George II. Continuing his natural history work, he dedicated the first volume of his Natural History, and dedicated the second volume to King George I. In response, George I presented him weith a baronetcy in 1716.

Sloane became President of the College of Physicians in 1719, and succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as President of the Royal Society in 1727.

Sloane was known as an open-minded and innovative physician. He was at the forefront ot the move to innoculate against the dreaded smallpox and the use of quinine in the treatment of malaria and other disease. He also established a foundling hospital


Sloane's Collection and The British Museum
A rabid collector from a young age, Dr. Sloane continued to add to his collection throughout his life. He even purchased collections made by others, and was constantly receiving gifts of items from his friends and patients. His collection grew to such a size that it outgrew his house and he was forced to purchase the house next door to contain the overflow.

Eventually, in 1742, Sloane moved himself and his collection to a large manor house in Chelsea. At the time of his death in 1753 the collection consisted of more than 17,000 objects. While his collection contained primarily natural history specimens, it was also catalogued to contain approximately 23,000 coins and medals, 50,000 books, prints and manuscripts, a collection of dried plants called a herbarium, and 1,125 items declared to be "things relating to the customs of ancient times."

In his will, Hans Sloane bequeathed his entire collection to King George II with the understanding that the King would, in return, make a payment of 20,000 to his heirs. Sloane had intended that the collection be made available to all the people of the nation, and on June 7, 1753 Parliament established the British Natural History Museum, of which Sloane's collection became the foundation. Currently, you can find Sloane's collection at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, England.


Hans Sloane and... Chocolate Milk?
Aside from his natural history collection, Hans Sloane is known for the creation of something now loved the world over - milk chocolate!

While Sloane was in Jamaica he was introduced to a local drink known as cocoa. He found the substance too bitter for his taste, He discovered, though, that if the substance was mixed with milk it tasted very good! He brought his recipe with him when he returned to England and shared it with the world.Various druggists created a "medicine" called "Sir Hans Sloane's Milk Chocolate." The recipe was obtained in the 1800's by the Cadbury Brothers who eventually became the leading manufacturer of what the world now knows as milk chocolate!

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Content copyright © 2014 by Deborah Watson-Novacek. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Deborah Watson-Novacek. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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