Sir Hans Sloane, a British physician and naturalist just didn’t want to see his lifetime collection go to waste after he passed away, so he found an original solution. In his will he bequeathed his collection to King George II, on the condition that 20,000 pounds were paid to his heirs. Luckily King George II accepted the offer, and the British Museum was established.
It was only natural that as a naturalist, Sloane’s collection contained hundreds of volumes of dried plants. But Sloane’s vast collection was much more than that. It consisted of over 70,000 objects, including 40,000 books, thousands of manuscripts and antiquities from around the world. By the way, Hans Sloane deserves our gratitude not only for the establishment of the British Museum. While visiting Jamaica, he tried a popular drink among the locals, which consisted of cocoa and water. Disgusted by its flavor, he decided to mix it with milk instead. Quite content with the results, he brought his recipe with him after returning to England, where it began spreading as a medicine. So the next time you visit the British Museum, or sip your cocoa drink, give a nod of acknowledgment to this great man.
But let’s return to the museum. Sloane’s collection, along with the Cottonian Library (assembled by Sir Robert Cotton), the Harleian Library and the Royal Library were the nucleus of the newly founded museum. The Montagu House, a 17th century mansion in Bloomsbury, London was chosen as the first home of the museum. The museum formally opened its doors in 1759.