Henry Solomon Wellcome: three-quarter length. Oil painting by Hugh Goldwin Riviere, 1906.


Henry S. Wellcome was born in 1853 to a poor farm family in Almond, Wisconsin. Upon his death in 1936, the Wellcome Trust, a British charity, was created. Many years later, it became the most highly endowed charity in the world, with assets of 15 billion pounds. Wellcome owed this achievement to his success as a pharmaceutical manufacturer and salesman. After training as a pharmacist at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, he went to England in 1880 to join his college friend S. Mainville Burroughs in a new pharmaceutical company called Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. When Burroughs died in 1895, Wellcome became sole owner of the company. He used his wealth to fund many charitable projects, including libraries, laboratories, and museums. His own historical collection forms the nucleus of the present Wellcome Library in London, and in 1932 he built the Wellcome Building on London's Euston Road to display the collection. Wellcome bequeathed ownership of the pharmaceutical company to the Wellcome Trust, which owned it until 1986, after which the Trust gradually sold the company in order to diversify and stabilize its assets. Wellcome's will formed the founding document of the Wellcome Trust.

Last updated: September 18, 2015