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Department of Biochemistry

Sir Jeremiah Colman

The name of the library in the Department of Biochemistry, the Colman Library, commemorates the role of Sir Jeremiah Colman as Chairman of the Dunn Trustees responsible for administering the inheritance of Sir William Dunn.

Colman (1859-1942) was educated at King's College School and St. John's College, Cambridge before becoming Chairman of the family mustard business, J & J Colman, in 1896. The firm had been founded by Jeremiah Colman Sr. who began making mustard in the village of Bawburgh before transferring, in 1865, to the production factory in Carrow Road, Norwich. After Colman became Chairman of the business he held a succession of public offices, and became a considerable philanthropist for which he was created first Baronet.

Colman's connection to the Department began in 1908 when, as Chairman of the Commercial Union Assurance Company, he was appointed Chairman of the Trustees of the estate of Sir William Dunn. Dunn, who had made a fortune in South Africa as a banker and merchant, bequeathed about half his inheritance in trust to them to "alleviate human suffering, to encourage education and promote emigration." In co-operation with Sir William Bate Hardy (secretary of the Royal Society) and Sir Walter Morley Fletcher (secretary of the Medical Research Committee), Colman decided to fund research in biochemistry and pathology. They allocated £210,000 to the University of Cambridge to enable Frederick Gowland Hopkins to establish a School of Biochemistry. This provided both a Chair of Biochemistry for Hopkins and a building, costing £165,000, to house the new Department of Biochemistry. In 1922 the Dunn Trustees made a further endowment of the Sir William Dunn Readership, a position held first by John Burdon Sanderson Haldane from 1922 until 1932, and additionally provided £2,000, in 1924, for the provision of "a Library for the School of Biochemistry."

Aside from philanthropy Colman had two passions throughout his life: orchids and cricket. At his country seat, Gatton Park in Surrey, he amassed one of the finest collections of orchids in the country, including many rare and interesting species. In 1933 this collection was given to the University Botanic Garden. Colman's interest in cricket began at an early age and in 1882 he captained the St John's College first XI. From 1916 to 1923 he was President of the Surrey County Cricket Club. Colman also assembled a notable collection of cricket photographs which are now in the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord's.

A portrait of Sir Jeremiah Colman, complete with orchid buttonhole, hangs in the foyer of the Hopkins Building, opposite a photograph of Sir William Dunn.


The portrait of Sir Jeremiah Colman that hangs in the foyer of the Hopkins Building.