A selection of ceramics through the ages (5 second delay) Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
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People and their collections

Robert Plot 1640-96 - scientist & antiquary


Plot had a strong interest in the 'New Science'. He attended a practical chemistry course in March 1667, part of which was taught by Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in December 1677.

In 1683 the University of Oxford created its first professorship of chemistry and appointed Plot to it. The Ashmolean Museum contained a purpose-built laboratory in the basement, and it was here that Plot and a number of other scholars attended a course in chemistry in September 1683. In October the Oxford Society (from 1684 the Philosophical Society of Oxford) established itself at the Museum, with Plot as director of experiments.

These experiments would have included distillation, other procedures involving chemicals and metals, examination of and experimenting on live and dead animals, and examination of human remains (which could be obtained from the gallows - see Plot 1677 pp 197-200).

This statement has some practical evidence to support it. In 1999 archaeological excavations below the site of the laboratory in the basement of the building (now the Museum of History of Science) recovered human and animal bones in large quantities, and many earthenware chemical vessels. It has been suggested that the human remains were part of a selective anatomy collection, and that the animal bones and pottery were associated with laboratory activities. (www.mhs.ox.ac.uk Museum Newsletter Sphaera issue 10: article 5 and Sphaera issue 11: article 1 - see Links page)

Plot resigned the professorship in 1690, at the same time as stepping down from his post as Keeper of The Ashmolean Museum.  

Curator (the collections)

Robert Plot: case study

His published work (1)

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last updated: jcm/16-dec-2005