Walter Rothschild makes a museum

17 March 2008

'Mama, Papa. I am going to make a museum.' These were the words of the seven-year-old Walter Rothschild in the mid 1800s.

Walter Rothschild The Man, the Museum and the Menagerie book

Walter Rothschild The Man, the Museum and the Menagerie book

By 1892, Walter amassed the greatest collection of animals ever assembled by one person and achieved his goal by opening a private museum.

Miriam Rothschild, Walter Rothschild's niece, reveals the extraordinary life of one of Britain's great eccentrics in the Natural History Museum book, Walter Rothschild: The Man, the Museum and the Menagerie .

From his involvement with the Balfour Declaration to his prodigious personal scientific output, Walter's life was anything but commonplace.

He drove a team of zebra down Piccadilly and into the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, befriended kings, kiwis and kangaroos, and was blackmailed by a mysterious woman for many years.

Over 250 species of plants and animals are named in honour of Walter Rothschild and his collections were the largest single gift ever received by the British Museum.

Museum at Tring

Rothschild's private museum became the Natural History Museum at Tring when the entire Museum and its collections were gifted to the nation by the Rothschild family in 1937.

Author

Author Miriam Rothschild was a renowned naturalist herself and shared her uncle's passion for the natural world. In 1995 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was made a Dame in 2000. Dame Miriam died in 2005.

The book was originally published in hardback under the title Dear Lord Rothschild: Birds, Butterflies and History .

Walter Rothschild: The Man, the Museum and the Menagerie is a deeply personal biography which nevertheless reveals the complexities and conflicts Walter faced during his remarkable life. It is for sale in the Museum shop and online.