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Views & Reviews Review of the week

Sex and drugs and rock and roll

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 28 June 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1374
  1. Colin Martin, independent consultant in healthcare communication, London
  1. Cmpubrel{at}

    The long awaited revamp of the Wellcome Collection, which claims to be the world's first public venue devoted to looking at the human condition, impresses Colin Martin

    Steve Cross, one of the head curators at the Wellcome Collection, which has just undergone a £30m ($60m; €45m) facelift and reopened to the public last week, is impressed by the zeal of the collection's namesake. “It's strange to think that as well as building up one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies from scratch, Sir Henry had time to organise archaeological digs and run an army of collectors and curators scouring the world for interesting objects,” he said.

    The reorganised collection is located in the Wellcome Building, the Wellcome Trust's former headquarters in Euston Road, London. Built in 1931-4 by Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) to house his collection, library, and laboratories for research into tropical medicine, it has been sensitively transformed over the past five years by Hopkins Architects.

    Born in the US Midwest, Sir Henry was a pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and collector. In 1880 he established the Burroughs-Wellcome pharmaceutical company in the United Kingdom with Silas Burroughs. Sir Henry became sole owner when Burroughs died in 1895, and he used a large part of the company's profits to collect more than a million medical, cultural, and anthropological objects from around the world. In his will he set up the Wellcome Trust, currently the world's second largest medical research charity, with investment assets of £14bn. This year it will spend £540m to support biomedical research and encourage public debate about the importance of research.

    “The …

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