One of my favourite people from history, Hans Sloane, was born 350 years ago today on 16 April 1660. He went on to have a varied and successful career as a physician, botanist, collector, and traveller. The immense collection of objects and books which he left to the nation after his death in 1753 was the starting point for the British Museum, the British Library, and the Natural History Museum.
Sloane was one of the great networkers of his age. He was a secretary of the Royal Society of London and he revived the publication of their Philosophical Transactions. He counted among his many friends, colleagues, and patients Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Samuel Pepys, John Locke, and Henry Morgan.
Sloane was hugely successful in his profession and with his hobbies. He became both the President of the Royal College of Physicians and the President of the Royal Society – at the same time! His medical practice (and his marriage to a rich widow) ensured that he was able to indulge his taste for collecting. He collected books, natural history specimens, ethonographic material, prints, fossils, coins, manuscripts to name just a few of his interests. He was one of the richest people in London and was eventually able to buy the Manor at Chelsea.
Sloane also popularised the use of chocolate as a medicine so it is clear that he was also a genius who was far ahead of his time! This also means that lots of events commemorating Sloane involve chocolate in some way. So if he wasn’t worth celebrating enough already there’s an excuse to dose yourself with some healthy chocolate while enjoying his legacies!
There are a lot of events to celebrate the life and many achievements of the enterprising Dr Sloane this year. Here are just a few.
Sloane’s hometown of Killyleagh in Northern Ireland has a series of concerts and events starting this week to honour their favourite native son. See http://hanssloane.com for details. The Killyleagh birthday party continues in September with a Chocolate Ball at Killyleagh Castle ‘(dress: Milk, Dark or White Tie of course!)’ and a Chocolate Festival. See http://hanssloane.com/events.php.
London will also play host to a variety of events celebrating Sloane.
The British Library will host a conference on 7-8 June 2010 entitled ‘From Books to Bezoars’ which will include the latest news about the Sloane Printed Books Project. Thousands of Sloane’s 40,000 books have already been identified.
The British Museum is also offering a series of events including a concert and talks. See their Events Page for all the details. Meanwhile the British Museum also has on online exhibition of some of the objects Sloane collected. See them at Sloane Objects. There is also a page giving a biography of Sloane and the history of the British Museum at Sir Hans Sloane.
The Royal College of Physicians, the Chelsea Physic Garden and The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret are joining forces to present a series of events for the rest of the year. The RCP will host an exhibition called ‘Sir Hans Sloane: Discoveries, Travels and Chocolate’ from 5 July-24 December 2010. The Physic Garden has a series of events including chocolate tastings througout the spring and summer. The Old Operting Theatre is holding ‘Odyssey of Chocolate’ workshops and Sloane walks in Chelsea and Bloomsburgy will be led by its director, Kevin Flude. For a full list of events see Hans Sloane Our Local Hero Events (pdf).
Hans Town in Chelsea was named for Sloane (as, of course, was Sloane Square!) – he once owned the land it stands on. Find out more at Hidden London Hans Town.