Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was born onboard a ship off the coast of Jamaica on 6 July 1781. He began working for the East India Company at the age of 14 and in 1805 was posted to Penang. Raffles’ knowledge of the Malay language made him invaluable and was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Java from 1811-1816.
Raffles was fascinated by both the natural and cultural history of Java and in 1817 he published The history of Java. Also in 1817, he was knighted by the Prince Regent. In 1819 Raffles founded modern Singapore after identifying its potential as a strategic trading post between Western and Eastern markets.
Raffles’ interest in natural history led to his founding of the Zoological Society of London(ZSL) in 1826 and he was elected the first President of the Society. Sadly Raffles did not have the opportunity to see the Society develop as he died unexpectedly on 5 July 1826, the day before his 45th birthday.
As Raffles died so soon after founding ZSL, there is very little material relating to him in the ZSL Archives. The only letter written by Raffles that is held in the ZSL Archives is to Sir Everard Home, 1st Baronet. Home, was a surgeon and lecturer who published many papers on both human and animal anatomy. In 1808 he was appointed surgeon to King George III.
The original letter is reproduced below and a transcription of the letter can be read here Letter from Raffles to Home (154.5 KB) If you can identify any of the words we have not been able to transcribe, please email firstname.lastname@example.org This Artefact and transcription was written by Ruth Jones.
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