Collection Wellcome MSS - Henry Solomon Wellcome Collection

Identity area

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Wellcome MSS


Henry Solomon Wellcome Collection


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Name of creator


Biographical history

British manufacturing chemist of American origin; patron of science and amateur archaeologist; he was born in a log cabin at Almond, Wisconsin, 21 Aug. 1835, son of the Revd Solomon Cummings W., farmer and missionary, and Mary Curtis; he was educated at frontier schools, and then qualified at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy; he was apprenticed to several American firms, and at this period explored the cinchona forests of Peru and Ecuador; in 1885 he was awarded the Royal Humane Soc. Medal for life-saving; Wellcome came to England in 1880 and with the American S. M. Burroughs founded the firm of Burroughs, Wellcome Co., chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers; he became sole owner after 1895; he founded the Physiological Research Laboratories, 1894, and chemical research laboratories, 1896; also the tropical research laboratories at Khartoum, 1901, and the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, 1913; he left nearly all his great wealth to these and other institutions through the Wellcome Foundation; FRS, 1932; knighted 1932; LLD Edinburgh; DSc; Hon. FRCS Eng.; Officer of the Legion d'honneur, 1936; in 1901 he married Gwendoline Maude Syrie, daughter of Thomas Barnardo; he divorced her in 1916 and she married the novelist Somerset Maugham; he was naturalized British, 1910; his interest in exploration seems to have been encouraged by his friendship with H. M. Stanley, and he conducted Archaeological and Ethnological expeditions in the Upper Nile regions of the Sudan, 1901, himself directing excavations at a late neolithic site at Gebel Moya, and employing others to dig for him elsewhere; in all he excavated four sites in the Fung area, Gebel Moya, Abu Geili, Sequadi and Dar el-Melik, 1910-14; the enormous labour force, 500 men rising to 3,000 at times, made for staff difficulties in supervision, and a huge amount of archaeological material was brought back to England and stored in depots and warehouses at Dartford, Marylebone, Stanmore and Willesden; to this material must be added further collections that he acquired by purchase which related to areas outside the Nile valley; he was a pioneer of aerial photography both for exploration and surveying archaeological sites, and used kites with aerial cameras attached in his work; between the 1890s and his death in 1936 he formed an enormous collection of objects, books, and manuscripts on medical, anthropological, and social topics, which formed the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, partly dispersed after his death; this contained a very valuable and large collection of Egyptian antiquities, much material deriving from excavations supported by Wellcome and includes a substantial number of objects from the EES excavations at El-Amarna and Armant, and from Garstang's work at Meroe; he also purchased a considerable number of items at the sale of the MacGregor Collection in 1922 and other sales of this period such as those of the Rustafjaell, Meux, and Hilton Price collections; much of this was presented by his Trustees to University College London in Nov. 1964, to be incorporated in the Petrie Collection; other portions of his Egyptological collections were distributed to the British Museum and other British museums, including Durham, Swansea, Birmingham and Bolton; some papers are in the Griffith Institute, Oxford; he died in London, 25 July 1936.

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Journals, excavation records (Abu Geili, Jebel Moya, Saqadi, Dar el-Mek, etc.), indexes, maps, plans and photographs.

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Physical storage

  • Shelf: 1003-1007
  • Shelf: 1322-1324
  • Shelf: 1330-1332