Sir Hans Sloane

Physician to royalty, founder of the British Museum and the man who brought drinking chocolate to Europe.
Sir Hans Sloane
Physician to royalty, founder of the British Museum and the man who brought drinking chocolate to Europe.
From modest beginnings in the village of Killyleagh, Hans Sloane went on to lead a long and rich life, blazing a trail for 17th and 18th century healthcare, science and naturalism. 
He established the British Museum (where you can still see his collections to this day), the Natural History Museum, the Chelsea Physic Garden, and we can also thank him for bringing drinking chocolate to Europe.

His life in brief

Hans was born in Killyleagh, county Down on 16 April 1660 and died in Chelsea, after a long and rewarding life, in 1753, aged 92. He was the world’s greatest collector who, from his earliest years, catalogued and carefully encased every artefact that he found. Over the years he accumulated nearly 70,000 items many of which today are on display in the British Museum. It was he – and his collections – which founded this wonderful treasury.
Killyleagh today
Drinking chocolate
He spent his first 19 years in Killyleagh and then went to London. He studied chemistry and then decided on a career in medicine, qualifying in France and returning to London. He was appointed as the personal physician to the governor of Jamaica and it was there that, apart from adding to his ever expanding collections, he discovered drinking chocolate. When he returned to England he was able to market his find and Cadbury's promoted this drink for many years.

He set up his medical practice at Bloomsbury Place in London where he even had members of the Royal Family on his list. He encouraged inoculation against various diseases and ensured that his own children and many royal princes and princesses  availed themselves of this discovery.

He was a prominent member and, for 16 years the President, of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Fellow and hard working secretary of the Royal Society for many years.

In 1714, he attended Queen Anne on her deathbed and was able to keep her alive long enough for her to sign a document to ensure the Hanoverian succession.

Chelsea Physic Garden
Toward the end of his life, with the numbers of artefacts in his collection reaching astronomical heights, he moved to live in the Manor House in Chelsea beside his beloved Physic Garden where his statue stands to this day. In 2002 a replica of this statue was unveiled in Killyleagh by the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew who also happens to be Baron Killyleagh.

The British Museum
It was always his determination that his extensive collections should be on view to everyone and within 6 years of his death, the first British Museum was opened in 1759.

This kindly and generous son of Killyleagh touched, during his long life, ‘a veritable cross section of society – the patient and the country doctor; the peasant and the peer; the duchess and her servant; the crank and the lunatic; the beggar and even the felon’.

Killyleagh is proud, amongst all her famous sons and daughters, of this man of distinction.
Cadbury's advert, 1885