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The Yanks are coming – bring out the Wellcome mat

July 25, 2011

The Wellcome Trust kicks off its 75th anniversary celebrations today.

Sir Henry Wellcome

Wellcome Images

Founded by Sir Henry Wellcome (left), it’s a unique organisation in many ways.  It invests more than £600 million a year in medical research and is also far and away the biggest supporter of medical history research and engaging general public interest in science.

No surprise then that the trust’s online historical material is brilliant  – helped by a magnificent archive.

In a reversal of the established transatlantic tide which brought the IBM Watsons and many others to North America, it was the creation of two US entrepreneurs who came to Britain to make their fortunes.

Henry Wellcome was born in a log cabin in northern Wisconsin and joined Silas Burroughs in London in 1880.

He was a lifelong friend and supporter of  Henry Morton Stanley, the journalist who found explorer David Livingstone.

Thomas J. Watson created the Think! mantra but as a salesman  Henry Wellcome went one better. He coined the word “tabloid” to describe an easy-to-take pill and term has since been applied disparagingly to popular newspapers. Like the News of the World – closed this month because of the phone hacking scandal seven years short of its 150th anniversary.

Britain honoured him with a deserved knighthood. For decades the Wellcome Trust put more money into improving health than the UK Government did in its funding for the  Medical Research Council.

So arise Sir Henry.

Some guy.  Some vision.  Some legacy.

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