1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Coram, Thomas

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CORAM, THOMAS (1668-1751), English philanthropist, was born at Lyme Regis, Dorset. He began life as a seaman, and rose to the position of merchant captain. He settled at Taunton, Massachusetts, for several years engaging there in farming and boat-building, and in 1703 returned to England. His acquaintance with the destitute East End of London, and the miserable condition of the children there, inspired him with the idea of providing a refuge for such of them as had no legal protector; and after seventeen years of unwearied exertion, he obtained in 1739 a royal charter authorizing the establishment of his hospital for foundling infants (see Foundling Hospitals). It was opened in Hatton Garden, on the 17th of October 1740, with twenty inmates. For fifteen years it was supported by voluntary contributions; but in 1756 it was endowed with a parliamentary grant of 10,000 for the support of all that might be sent to it. Children were brought, however, in such numbers, and so few (not one-third, it is said) survived infancy, that the grant was stopped, and the charity, which had been removed to Guilford Street, was from that time only administered under careful restrictions. Coram's later years were spent in watching over the interests of the hospital; he was also one of the promoters of the settlement of Georgia and Nova Scotia; and his name is honourably connected with various other charities. In carrying out his philanthropic schemes he spent nearly all his private means; and an annuity of £170 was raised for him by public subscription. He died on the 29th of March 1751.