Happy (Belated) Birthday, Dr. Sloane!

Posted in anniversaries, books, conferences (to attend), resources by Editor on April 25, 2010

In the midst of the disruptions from the volcanic ash cloud, I failed to note the birthday of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), who would have turned 350 years this past Friday (April 16). The physician was an important naturalist, bibliophile, and collector. As outlined in his will, the bequest of his vast collections to the nation provided the foundation of the British Museum. To mark the anniversary, a series of events have been organized at the British Museum, London’s Natural History Museum, and the Old Operating Theatre Museum, as well as in the Northern Ireland village of Killyleagh, where Sloane was born. Although most events took place last week, in June a major conference will be held at the British Library (see below for the schedule). For whatever it’s worth, I have a hunch that Sloane would have been thrilled to have his birthday marked by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull -C.H.

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In addition, the Sloane Printed Books Catalogue, is an outstanding new online resource. As noted on the BL’s website:

Sloane’s library of approximately 40,000 volumes, now dispersed within the collections of the British Library and other research libraries, is being identified. Bibliographical descriptions are enhanced with information about pre-Sloane provenance, annotations and other copy-specific information. The information accumulated is being made available through a web-accessible database, the Sloane Printed Books Catalogue, maintained by the British Library. The work of this project will form a significant research resource for medical, scientific and intellectual historians of the period.

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From Books to Bezoars: An International Conference Celebrating the 350th Anniversary of the Birth of Sir Hans Sloane, Physician, Naturalist and Collector
British Library, London, 7-8 June 2010


9:30 Registration

10:00 Plenary Session

  • James Delbourgo (Rutgers University), Collecting Sir Hans Sloane

10:45 Coffee

11:05 Sloane’s Origins, Life and Work

  • Mark Purcell (National Trust), “Settled in the north of Ireland”, or Where did Sloane come from?
  • Pratik Chakrabarti (University of Kent), The Voyages of Hans Sloane: A colonial history of gentlemanly science
  • Lisa Smith (University of Saskatchewan), Sir Hans Sloane: Physician of the family

12:15 Lunch

1:10 Specimens and Classification

  • Charlie Jarvis, Mark Spencer, and Rob Huxley (Natural History Museum), Sloane’s plant specimens at the Natural History Museum
  • Savithri Preetha Nair (Independent Scholar), Botanising on the Coromandel coast in the seventeenth century
  • Jill Cook (British Museum), Sloane, elephants and climate change

3:00 Tea

3:20 Sloane and the West Indies

  • James Robertson (University of the West Indies), Knowledgeable readers- Jamaican critiques of Hans Sloane’s botany
  • Julie Chun Kim (Fordham University), The African and Amerindian sources of Atlantic medicine
  • Wendy Churchill (University of New Brunswick), Hans Sloane’s perspectives on the medical knowledge and health practices of non-Europeans
  • Tracy-Ann Smith and Katherine Hann (Natural History Museum), Sloane, slavery and the natural world: New perspectives from community programming

6:30 Reception in the Enlightenment Gallery of the British Museum


10:00 Plenary Session

  • Kim Sloan (British Museum), Sir Hans Sloane’s ‘Paper Museum’

10:45 Coffee

11:05 The Culture of Collecting

  • Kathryn James (Beinecke Library, Yale), Hans Sloane and the public performance of natural history
  • Barbara Benedict (Trinity College, Hartford), Sloane’s Ranges: Shifts in Sir Hans Sloane’s literary representation in the eighteenth century
  • Eric Jorink (Huygens Instituut), Sloane and the Dutch connection

12:15 Lunch

1:15 Catalogues, Books, and Manuscripts

  • Alison Walker, The Sloane Printed Books Project
  • Marjorie Caygill (British Museum), Sloane’s catalogues in the British Museum
  • Arnold Hunt, Sloane as a manuscript collector

2:20 Tea

2:50 Sloane’s Book Collections

  • John Goldfinch (British Library), A rediscovered volume of printed and mss fragments from Sloane’s library
  • Julianne Simpson (Wellcome Library), The dispersal of Sir Hans Sloane’s library: A case study from the Medical Society of London collection
  • Stephen Parkin (British Library), Sloane’s Italian books
  • Will Poole (New College, Oxford), Sloane’s books at the Bodleian Library

4:20 Concluding Remarks

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