When Sir Henry Wellcome established a charitable foundation in 1936 intended to fund “The advancement of medical and scientific research to improve mankind’s wellbeing” he can have had no idea of the incredible impact the £9bn which has been invested in the last 75 years would have.
The anniversary of the Wellcome Trust, which was marked this week, is being celebrated with an exhibition of images highlighting the people, events and huge medical and scientific strides which have featured in the Trust’s relatively short history.
Sir Henry Wellcome, a businessman, philanthropist and collector born in the American ‘Wild West’ who died a knight of the realm, specified in his will that the income from his company should further the understanding of the history of medicine and science.
A prolific collector of anything to do with medicine, Wellcome believed that science was crucial part of mainstream culture. Many of the drawings, artefacts and papers he amassed in the Wellcome Library have been used by curators of the exhibition to illustrate just a few of the extraordinary achievements made possible by the foundation.
The second-largest medical charity in the world, the Wellcome Trust has helped to develop the world’s most effective malaria treatment, it has unlocked the secrets of the human genome, provided treatments to save seriously premature infants and funded important studies about sexuality and HIV.