Commentary: Connections - Stones and Bones; May 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Burke; 2 Page(s)
Iwas in the British Museum last week, working in the great Reading Room and having a silent lament at its imminent demise. In 1998 we must move to new premises, whose layout is sure not to encourage octogenarian emeriti (like the one sitting next to me) to snore in that endearing way so familiar to users of the room. It was an Italian who did us all the favor. Antonio Panizzi, a Keeper of Books at the BM in 1831, got the Reading Room built.
At the time, plans were still embroiled in various scams associated with the lottery that was supposed to pay for setting up the museum in the first place. It must be said, however, that whatever money ended up in somebody¿s pocket, what remained was enough to do the job, and the museum had been opened in 1759, thanks above all to the single-minded obstreperousness of Sir Hans Sloane (inventor of hot chocolate). When he died in 1753, Sloane had the greatest collection of "curiosities" anybody had ever seen, and he left it to the nation on condition there was a museum to house it, plus ¿20,000 for his heirs. Hence the lottery and in turn the British Museum.