Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine (Biographical details)

Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine (institution/organisation; British; 1936; founded)

Also known as

Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine; Wellcome Trust; Wellcome Historical Medical Museum; Wellcome Historical Museum; Wellcome Museum; Wellcome Institute; Wellcome Collection; Wellcome Foundation


Sir Henry Wellcome (q.v.) established by the terms of his will in 1936 the Wellcome Trust with a very large endowment of shares in his firm, and all his collections (which numbered several million artefacts at the time of his death in addition to books, manuscripts, prints, paintings and photographs etc). The Trust is a medical charity, with a mission 'to foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health'. To this end, it supports 'blue skies' research and applied clinical research. It also encourages the exploitation of research findings for medical benefit.

Among its areas of activity is looking after and developing Wellcome's collections. The Library and its iconographic collections were maintained in their building in Euston Road, from 1968 under the umbrella of the now defunct Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine which was created in that year and currently by Wellcome Collection. The catalogues can be reached through www.wellcome.ac.uk.

Much of the three-dimensional material in Wellcome's collection was distributed to numerous museums in Britain and abroad in the 1950s when the Trust decided to focus on medical history. Significant donations to other collections were also made from the surplus left behind when it was decided to transfer all medical-related items in the remaining part of the collection - still numbering around 500,000 items - to the Science Museum, London in 1977. On both occasions, large groups of objects were given to the British Museum, including much archaeological material during the second main dispersal.


Arnold K. and Olsen D. (eds) 2003, Medicine man: the forgotten museum of Henry Wellcome (London: BMP).

Bailey P. 2008, Henry Wellcome the collector [Wellcome Trust website]

James R. 1994, Henry Wellcome (London: Hodder & Stoughton).

Larson F. 2009, An infinity of things: how Sir Henry Wellcome collected the world (Oxford: OUP).

Turner H. 1980, Henry Wellcome: the man, his collection and his legacy (London).