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Sir Hans Sloane, scientist

Maarten Ultee


ECCE Gloriae Mathematicarum et Physicarum'; so reads the inscription on an eighteenth-century engraving showing Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Hans Sloane. While Newton has remained a household word for scientific genius, Sloane is remembered (if at all) as a collector of curiosities, the founder of the British Museum, and Lord of the Manor of Chelsea -but not as a scientist of note. Famous in his time as a physician to high society and as the natural historian of Jamaica, Sloane was criticized even then as a mere 'virtuoso', an undiscriminating collector who lacked understanding of scientific principles. Yet Hans Sloane was First Secretary to the Royal Society for two decades and served as President, after Newton's death, from 1727 to 1741. He published three volumes of natural history and edited the Philosophical Transactions, contributing articles and comments on many subjects.

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