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Cole, Sir Henry

COLE, SIR HENRY (1808-1882), English civil servant, was born at Bath on the 15th of July 1808, and was the son of an officer in the army. At the age of fifteen he became clerk to Sir Francis Palgrave, then a subordinate officer in the record office, and, helped by Charles Buller, to whom he had been introduced by Thomas Love Peacock, and who became chairman of a royal commission for inquiry into the condition of the public records, worked his way up until he became an assistant keeper. He largely assisted in influencing public opinion in support of Sir Rowland Hill's reforms at the post office. A connexion with the Society of Arts caused him to drift gradually out of the record office: he was a leading member of the commission that organized the Great Exhibition of 1851, and upon the conclusion of its labours was made secretary to the School of Design, which by a series of transformations became in 1853 the Department of Science and Art. Under its auspices the South Kensington (now Victoria and Albert) Museum was founded in 1855 upon land purchased out of the surplus of the exhibition, and Cole practically became its director, retiring in 1873. His proceedings were frequently criticized, but the museum owes much to his energy. Indefatigable, genial and masterful, he drove everything before him, and by all sorts of schemes and devices built up a great institution, whose variety and inequality of composition seemed imaged in the anomalous structure in which it was temporarily housed. He also, though to the financial disappointment of many, conferred a great benefit upon the metropolis by originating the scheme for the erection of the Royal Albert Hall. He was active in founding the national training schools for cookery and music, the latter the germ of the Royal College of Music. He edited the works of his benefactor Peacock; and was in his younger days largely connected with the press, and the author of many useful topographical handbooks published under the pseudonym of "Felix Summerly." He died on the 18th of April 1882.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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