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oil painting

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Portrait of Dr Alexander Scott (1853-1947), first Head of the Research Laboratory, H.L., seated, eyes full, holding a pair of tweezers for picking up weights for an analytical balance in the background..

  • Producer name

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 90 centimetres
    • Width: 98 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    In 1919 Dr Alexander Scott, a past president of the Chemical Society, was asked by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to conduct an inquiry into the condition of antiquities at the British Museum stored underground during the First World War. On his recommendation, in 1920 a scientific laboratory was set up, initially on a temporary basis. This became part of the Museum in 1931, headed by Scott until 1938. A small team carried out scientific study of ancient materials and their reactions to various environmental conditions, and methods of preservation and restoration were evolved. From this developed today’s Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, one of the oldest and largest conservation facilities in the world.

    Dr Andrew Oddy (ex Keeper of Conservation, comments, 17.7.06):
    'As far as I remember it [the portrait] shows an analytical balance in the background and Scott is holding a pair of tweezers for picking up weights for the balance. (These should never be handled as fingers cause corrosion and the weight changes.) Scott made his chemical reputation determining atomic weights, for which an accurate analytical balance was essential. I think the actual balance is (or was) in the Keeper's office.'


  • Location

    Not on display (Entrance to the Research Laboratory)

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition notes

    Information from Dr Andrew Oddy (17.7.2006) 'As far as I know, the Scott portrait belonged to Plenderleith, who was, I believe, Scott's executor. Scott had no children.'

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: PIC144362

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