In an interesting twist, I think the life of Sir Henry Wellcome is more phenomenal than the current exhibition (more on that later). Henry's story is one that fascinated me because he crossed paths with so many people that were instrumental in their own fields, which helped Henry become a successful man. Chalk this up to one more reason why I love this expat adventure.
Henry was an American man that grew up in the midwest in the late 1800's. When he wasn't exploring the unsettled areas of Minnesota, he worked at his uncle's pharmacy and medical practice. He often shadowed his uncle on medical rounds and learned a lot along the way.
In his early adult years, Henry made his way to Rochester, MN and began learning from a man named Dr. William Worrall Mayo. Does that name sound familiar? Yes, Henry took chemistry lessons from the man who would be one of the the founders of The Mayo Clinic. Dr. Mayo encouraged Henry to look beyond Minnesota to further his education in Chicago. Henry took this advice and studied in Chicago and Philadelphia. He even made trips to South America to source herbs and plants for new medications.
Henry's friendship with Silas Burroughs lead him to London where he continued his interest in medicine. Burroughs and Wellcome created a pharmaceutical company that pioneered the distribution of tableted medicines across Europe. Prior to the introduction of the tablet (Wellcome & Burroughs trademarked the name Tabloid), pharmacists created medicines using a mortar and pestle, which was not always the most efficient or consistent way to make medicine. When Silas Burroughs died, Henry had complete control over the company.
Wellcome continued medical research and was successful in creating a vaccine for diphtheria. He decided to sell it below cost to the public as it was the right thing to do at the time. The success of the vaccine encouraged Henry to set up the Wellcome Research Laboratory to continue medical research. His laboratory is still in operation today, however it now houses the research and development teams from GlaxoSmithKline (formerly Glaxo Wellcome & SmithKline Beecham).
Henry's vision led to significant medical advances for the world's benefit:
- isolation of histamine to create anti-histamines, allergy sufferers rejoice!
- first producers of insulin
- mass exposure of medicine in control-measured tablet form outside of the US
- worked toward universal measurements for medicines
- created a floating laboratory that provided medical attention and conducted medical research about malaria along the Nile River - reducing the death from malaria by 90%
Sir Henry died 1936, but not before he entrusted all of his endeavors to the Wellcome Trust. This group continues to fund research of diseases, such as malaria & HIV, that impact lower income countries.
Thank you Sir Henry Wellcome for devoting your life to the health and welfare of the world.
To make this post a bit longer - the current exhibition is called the Institute of Sexology. Obviously photos are not allowed inside as most of the artifacts are of a sexual nature.
Nothing on display was lewd or inappropriate, but it was not a topic that I was particularly interested in perusing for any length of time. The museum also has a permanent exhibit titled Medicine Now that explores medicine from the early 1900's until today.
To round out the tour the Wellcome Collection puts on a rad cafe and gift shop. Judging by the number of little kids at the cafe, people stop by for the food since they weren't touring the Sexology exhibit.
The Wellcome Collection galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, but the cafe and shop are open every day. The museum is located extremely close to the Euston Square Underground Station (Circle, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City Lines), Euston Station (Victoria & Northern Lines), and Warren Street Station (Victoria & Northern Lines).