Wellcome Trust Launches New Web Resource, Wellcome's World

By Rose Shillito | 26 July 2007
Shows illustration of Sir Henry Wellcome with body of eagle and pile of coins at feet

Drawing of Henry Wellcome by Fred Reynolds, 1900 © Wellcome Trust

The remarkable life and achievements of Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), co-founder of a multinational pharmaceutical company, are celebrated with the launch of a web site to coincide with the 71st anniversary of his death.

Wellcome’s World has been launched by The Wellcome Trust, the medical charity set up under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome in 1936. Today, the Wellcome Trust is the UK’s largest medical research charity, spending £500 million each year to fund research into improving human and animal health throughout the world.

Now online, Wellcome’s World draws upon 350 items selected from the Wellcome Library’s holdings, and links up with the Library catalogue, archive and manuscripts catalogue and Wellcome Images, a newly launched picture library consisting of thousands of clinical, medical and historical images.

Shows old letter with illustration of William Gladstone

Letter of acknowledgement from William Gladstone on receiving a Burroughs Wellcome Tabloid medicine chest, 1895 © Wellcome Trust

The result is a unique digital resource telling the dramatic story of how Henry Wellcome, a boy born into poverty in the American Wild West, went on to become a knight of the British Empire. Readers will find a wealth of information and personal insights into the man who was to become one of medicine’s greatest benefactors.

We learn of two pivotal experiences in young Wellcome’s life, which had a profound impact upon shaping his future destiny.

The first occurred in 1862 when the family were caught up in a bloody Sioux uprising – the young Henry aided his uncle in tending to the injured townsfolk; the second was Wellcome’s discovery of a Neolithic stone arrowhead, which inspired a lifelong fascination with history and started his collection of historical artefacts.

Shows illustration of nineteenth-century factory

Wandsworth Factory. Situated at Bell Lane Wharf in Wandsworth, London, this was the first proper Burroughs Wellcome & Co factory © Wellcome Trust

Wellcome’s World is split into five sections – personal life, businessman, man of science, philanthropist and collector. Each of these are split into subsections to give a really thorough overview of the historical significance of this influential man.

Some of the fascinating documents in Wellcome’s World include letters to Henry Wellcome from Oscar Wilde and Prime Minister William Gladstone, illustrations of the original London factories established by Burroughs Wellcome & Co and archive photographs of some of the first drugs created by the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories.

“Sir Henry Wellcome lived a remarkable life,” said Frances Norton, Head of the Wellcome Library. “As a philanthropist and collector, a businessman and a man obsessed with medicine and science, his legacy remains with us to this day. This fantastic new web resource goes some of the way to explore his diverse and complex life, and even taps into the personal including his broken marriage to Dr Bernardo’s daughter, Syrie."

Shows photo of nineteenth-century medicine bottle

Samples of anti-diphtheritic serum, made at the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratory in the 1890s © Wellcome Trust

Many of Henry Wellcome’s collected artefacts can now be seen on public display for the first time as part of Wellcome Collection, a new cultural venue on London’s Euston Road that explores the connections between life, medicine, art and history.

Wellcome’s World is at

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