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Dr. Alexander Scott, F.R.S

Nature volume 142, pages 697698 (15 October 1938) | Download Citation



THE announcement of the retirement of Dr. Alexander Scott from the honorary directorship of research at the British Museum Laboratory brings to mind that he was a pioneer in a field of applied science which, largely through his initiative and vision, has developed beyond all expectations. The idea of having a scientific laboratory in an archaeological museum was entirely novel, when, in 1919, the trustees of the British Museum sent a request to the Advisory Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for assistance in connexion with problems of cleaning, restoring and preserving antiquities. That Dr. Scott was called in to advise was singularly fortunate. His wide knowledge of chemistry coupled with his interest in antiquities fitted him peculiarly for the work. Within seven years the original inquiry had been satisfied and the results published in three reports which aroused widespread interest. Early experiences were of incalculable value when he visited Luxor and cooperated with Dr. Howard Carter in preserving many valuable objects from the tomb of Tut-ankh-Amun. As experience accumulated, the fact emerged that scientific assistance could be of much greater value to archaeology and the British Museum in general than had been at first supposed. There were questions of authenticity, of the composition of materials, of ancient technique, of classification, and of general diagnosis that could be answered only with the help of qualified scientific staff having the necessary facilities. Dr. Scott has had the satisfaction of founding and controlling the development of a research laboratory which from small beginnings became at length (in 1931) incorporated as a department of the British Museum, and is recognized to-day as being of the first importance by archaeologists and museums the world over.

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