Natural Histories: Hans Sloane

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The book A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica with the Natural History of the Herbs, and Trees, Four-footed Beasts, Fishes, Birds, Insects, Reptiles &c. of the Last of Those Islands (Volume I: 1707, volume II: 1725) provides a remarkable account of the travels and observations made by Sir Hans Sloane  (1660-1753) while he was in Jamaica for fifteen months between 1687 and 1689. Sloane was the founder of the British Museum, which is the model on which our own Institute of Jamaica is  based. Sloane’s life and work provide a rich opportunity to see the overlaps between the slave trade, emergent plantation systems and new scientific knowledge. The son of a colonial official, Sloane was born and raised in  Ireland, and trained in London and France as a physician and botanist.  He eventually established himself as a leading member of British society and academy. In 1719, he became President of the Royal College of Physicians; in 1727, succeeding Isaac Newton, he was elected President of the Royal Society. He also became the preeminent collector of his time, amassing many thousands of books, manuscripts, specimens and objects, gathered by numerous hands from around the world.

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