Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sloane, Hans

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

SLOANE, Sir HANS (1660–1753), physician, was the seventh son of Alexander Sloane, receiver-general of taxes, and his wife Sarah, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Hicks, chaplain to Archbishop Laud. He was born at Killileagh or White's Castle, co. Down, on 16 April 1660. At the age of sixteen he had hæmoptysis, and was in bad health for three years. This led to his giving up wine and ale, and being very temperate throughout life. He studied medicine at Paris and Montpelier, and at Montpelier, where he met his future friend, William Courten [q. v.], learned botany under Pierre Magnol and Tournefort. He graduated M.D. at the university of Orange in July 1683. He had known Robert Boyle and John Ray before he went to France, and visited them on his return in 1684. On 21 Jan. 1685 he was elected F.R.S., for which he was proposed by Martin Lister [q. v.] He met and liked Thomas Sydenham [q. v.], and went to live in his house. On 12 April 1687, under the charter of James II, he was admitted fellow of the College of Physicians. In the same year he went to the West Indies as physician to the Duke of Albemarle, governor of Jamaica, and stayed there fifteen months, making many natural history observations and collections. He arrived in London on 29 May 1689 with eight hundred species of plants, settled in practice in Bloomsbury Square, and was rapidly successful. On 30 Nov. 1693 he was elected secretary of the Royal Society, and held office till 1712. He revived the publication of the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ which had been suspended since 1687. He was one of the original subscribers, in December 1696, to the dispensary of the College of Physicians (Garth, Dispensary, viii.). In the same year he published ‘Catalogus Plantarum quæ in Insula Jamaica sponte proveniunt aut vulgo coluntur’ (London, 1696, 12mo), a work still esteemed by botanists. In it he followed the arrangement of John Ray, who addressed him as ‘the best of friends’ in a touching farewell letter dated 7 Jan. 1704 (see Letters of Eminent Lit. Men, Camden Soc., pp. 194, 206, 303). He was created M.D. at Oxford on 19 July 1701, and in 1707 published the first volume of his great natural history book, ‘A Voyage to the Islands of Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St. Christopher's, and Jamaica, with the Natural History of the last’ (London, folio), which he dedicated to Queen Anne. The second volume appeared in 1725. The publication of the first added so much to his reputation that in 1708 he was elected a foreign member of the French Academy of Sciences, and shortly afterwards a member of the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg, and of the Royal Academy of Madrid. He was elected a censor of the College of Physicians in 1705, 1709, and 1715, and was president from 1719 to 1735.

On the death of Sir Isaac Newton in 1727, Sloane was chosen president of the Royal Society, and held office till November 1741. He contributed several papers to the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (vols. xvii. to xlx.). His practice became very large, and the chief people of the time were his patients. Queen Anne consulted him, and one of his notes shows that it took him about four hours to drive down to Windsor in his coach-and-four. He advised in her last illness that she should be bled. He supported inoculation, and inoculated members of the royal family. He was a whig, and in August 1722 was appointed physician-general to the army on the death of Sir Thomas Gibson (Sloane MS. 4046, f. 273). On 3 April 1716 he was made a baronet, and in 1727 first physician to George II. A physician then had charge of Christ's Hospital, and he was appointed to this post in 1694, and held office till 1730. He used to give his whole salary to the foundation, and was a generous benefactor to many other hospitals. Among his papers are innumerable appeals for help, pecuniary or professional, and it is clear that he was rarely asked in vain. He never refused to advise a patient who could not afford to pay him a fee. Once a week he had an open dinner party, at which he entertained his friends in the College of Physicians and the Royal Society. In 1732 he was one of the promoters of the colony of Georgia.

In 1712 Sloane had purchased the manor of Chelsea, and, on retiring from practice as a physician in May 1741, settled on his estate there. He had founded in 1721, for the Society of Apothecaries, the botanic garden at Chelsea, which is still owned by the Apothecaries, but he devised it, in the event of their ceasing to cultivate it, to the College of Physicians and the Royal Society jointly. In 1745 he issued his only medical publication, ‘An Account of a Medicine for Soreness, Weakness, and other Distempers of the Eyes’ (London, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1750; French transl. Paris, 1746). After an illness of only three days, Sloane died on 11 Jan. 1753, and was buried, with his wife, in Chelsea churchyard; the monument, designed by Joseph Wilton [q. v.], still attracts passers-by. He married, in 1695, Elizabeth (d. 1724), daughter of John Langley, a London alderman, and widow of Fulk Rose of Jamaica. She had one son, Hans, who died an infant, and three daughters, of whom Mary also died an infant. Sarah married George Stanley, while Elizabeth, who married Colonel Charles (afterwards second Baron) Cadogan, carried much of Sloane's property into that family. Such names on the Cadogans' London estate as Sloane Street and Sloane Square and Hans Place and Hans Road preserve Sir Hans Sloane's memory (Beaver, Memorials of Old Chelsea, 1892, pp. 89 sq.).

Sloane's taste for natural history specimens, for manuscripts, and for books is commemorated by Pope in his lines

    And books for Mead and butterflies for Sloane

(Moral Epistles, iv. 10); and

    Or Sloane or Woodward's wondrous shelves contain

(Satires, viii. 30). More contemptuous is the allusion of Young to

    Sloane—the foremost toyman of his time

(Satires, iv. 113 sq.). His natural taste for collecting seems to have been stimulated by his friend William Courten, and Evelyn mentions his curiosities as early as April 1691. He acquired Courten's valuable cabinets on his death in 1702. Sloane's whole collection was moved to Chelsea in 1742, and a very interesting account of it is given in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1748, pp. 301–2). On 20 July 1749 he made a will bequeathing his collections to the nation, on condition that 20,000l. should be paid to his family. The first cost of the whole had been over 50,000l. In June 1753 an act of parliament was passed accepting the gift and appointing trustees to manage the collection. One of the trustees nominated by Sloane was Horace Walpole, who gave a somewhat irreverent account of the museum to Sir Horace Mann on 14 Feb. 1753. In 1754 the trustees purchased Montague House and removed the collections to it (together with the Cottonian Collection and the Harleian MSS.), and thus the noble collection of books and specimens now known as the British Museum was founded (cf. Cotton, Sir Robert Bruce; Harley, Edward, second Earl of Oxford; Courten, William; and see Edwards, Memoirs of Libraries, i. 440). The Sloane manuscripts contain letters and notes by most of the chief physicians of the century preceding Sloane's death, and must always be one of the main sources of medical history in England from the time of Charles II to that of George II. Ayscough's inexact catalogue, containing more than four thousand entries, has prevented these papers from being thoroughly studied, but the whole collection has lately been examined by Mr. Edward Scott, keeper of the manuscripts at the British Museum, who published a full index to the Sloane MSS. in 1904. Sloane also presented a large number of books to the Bodleian (Macray, Annals, p. 120), together with a portrait of himself in oils.

A portrait by Stephen Slaughter [q. v.], painted in 1736, was transferred from the British Museum to the National Portrait Gallery in June 1879. A portrait by Kneller belongs to the Royal Society; and a portrait, engraved by Lizars after another portrait by Kneller, was prefixed to the memoir of Sloane in Jardine's ‘Naturalist's Library’ (ix. 17–92). Sloane's portrait, by Thomas Murray, hangs in the dining-room of the College of Physicians, and shows him to have been tall and well formed, with a wise expression, but little colour in his face. A statue of Sloane, by Rysbrack, erected in 1748, is in the Apothecaries' Garden at Chelsea.

[Sloane MSS. in British Museum, esp. 3984 and 4241; copy of pedigree in British Museum, entered by order of chapter of College of Arms, 5 May 1726; Munk's Coll. of Phys. i. 460; Thomson's Hist. of the Royal Society; Weld's Hist. of the Royal Society, 1848, i. 450; Pepys's Diary; Hooker's Journal of Sir Joseph Banks.

N. M.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.251
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
379 ii 21-22 Sloane, Sir Hans: for on the accession of the house of Hanover read in August 1722, on the death of Sir Thomas Gibson (Sloane MS. 4046, f. 273)