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Sir Hans Sloane

AKA Hans Sloane

Born: 16-Apr-1660
Birthplace: Killyleagh, County Down, Ireland
Died: 11-Jan-1753
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Chelsea Old Church, London, England

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Curator, Naturalist, Doctor

Nationality: Ireland
Executive summary: Milk chocolate and the British Museum

Hans Sloane was a 17th century British doctor whose hobby was collecting antiquities and coins, shells and rocks, unusual plants and animals, and other curios. He worked as an assistant to Thomas Sydenham until the age of 27, when he was appointed as the personal physician for Christopher Monck (1653-1688), the newly-appointed Governor of Jamaica (which was then a British colony). On the island, he began collecting artifacts from the locals, and took detailed notes on whatever intrigued him, including he island's social customs, geology, weather, and earthquakes.

He is credited with inventing milk chocolate during his time in Jamaica, though this is dubious. According to Sloane, the locals had long mixed cocoa bean powder with water, and drank this mixture for its alleged medicinal properties, but he found their watered chocolate distasteful and instead tried mixing the bean powder with milk, sugar, and other additives. According to historians, Jamaicans have begun mixing cocoa with water -- but also with milk and cinnamon -- since about 200 years before Sloan's arrival.

Dr Sloane's post as the Jamaican Governor's physician lasted only fifteen months, ending when his patient died at the age of 35. Returning to London, Sloane brought with him hundreds of unusual items from Jamaica and the neighboring islands, including plant and animal specimens that the English had never seen before, which made him something of a scientific celebrity. He established a medical practice in the upper-class Bloomsbury district of London, where his patients included Queen Anne and King George I and II. He also made it his habit to see impoverished patients daily, until 10:00 AM, at no charge.

He sold "Sir Hans Sloane's Milk Chocolate" to apothecaries, marketing it as a medicinal product, and between his chocolate business and his medical practice, Sloane had considerable funds to continue purchasing oddities, antiquities, books, and even other collectors' complete collections. He eventually bought the house next door to his residence, just to house his enormous agglomeration of fossils and gemstones, flora and fauna, insects and mollusks, prints and paintings, dried plants and other botanical items, and thousands of books and journals.

In 1727 he succeeded Isaac Newton as President of the Royal Society, and in 1741 he retired from his medical practice. In his old age, Sloane expressed the desire that his collections not be sold piecemeal, and when he died in 1753, his last will & testament stipulated that the Crown could acquire his entire collection for the relatively reasonable sum of 20,000. The British Parliament acquiesced and purchased the collection, which consisted of 23,000 coins and medals, 50,000 books, prints and manuscripts, thousands of dried plants, and 1,125 other "things relating to the customs of ancient times." Renamed the British Museum, Sloane's collection was opened to the public on 15 January 1759. A bust of Sloane is now the first display visitors pass as they enter the Museum, and he is the namesake of London's Sloane Street, Sloane Square, and Hans Street.

Decades after Sloane's death, chocolatier John Cadbury purchased and adapted Sloane's recipe to manufacture milk chocolate drinks.

Father: Alexander Sloane (tax collector, d. 1666)
Mother: Sarah Hicks
Father: John Bailie (stepfather, m. Sarah Hicks 1671)
Brother: Henry (d. infancy)
Brother: James (Member of Parliament)
Brother: John (d. infancy)
Brother: William (b. 1658, d. 1728)
Wife: Elizabeth Langley Sloane (b. circa 1662, m. 9-May-1695, d. 27-Sep-1724, four children)
Daughter: Elizabeth Sloane Cadogan (b. circa 1696, d. 20-May-1768)
Son: Hans (d. infancy)
Daughter: Mary (d. infancy)
Daughter: Sarah Sloane Stanley

    High School: Killyleagh Castle, Killyleagh, Ireland
    Medical School: MD, University of Orange, near Avignon in Provence (1683)
    Fellow: Trinity College, Cambridge University

    Royal Society (1685; Secretary, 1693; President, 1727-41)
    Royal College of Physicians (1687; President, 1719-35)
    Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1705)
    Life Peerage Baronet (1716)
    British Museum Founding Curator (1753)
    English Ancestry
    Irish Ancestry
    Scottish Ancestry

Author of books:
Catalogus Plantarum Quae in Insula Jamaica (1696, catalogue of Jamaican plants)
Natural History of Jamaica, Vol. 1 (1707)
Natural History of Jamaica, Vol. 2 (1725)
Account of a Medicine for Soreness, Weakness and other Distempers of the Eyes (1745, medicine)

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