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Alban Thomas
(1686-1771)

Alban Thomas (the younger) was born in Wales in 1686, the son of Alban Thomas (the elder) (c.1657-1734/5), parson of Blaenporth, who was a poet and translator, and was prominent in the Welsh literary revival. Alban (the younger) attended Jesus College at the University of Oxford, and in 1708, while still a student (at age 22), he was made librarian of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. He had developed an intense interest in natural history, especially minerals and fossils, and had field-collected extensively.

In 1708 Thomas posted a 4-page advertisement in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (vol. 26, no. 314, p. 77-80), offering collections of 52 different fossil and mineral specimens of the kind discussed in well-known contemporary works by Robert Plot, John Woodward, John Ray and Martin Lister. The list is dominated by fossils but also includes fluorite, quartz, selenite and talc; the collections were priced at one guinea, and each specimen was identified as to locality and species according to Edward Lhwyd's Lithophylacii Britannici Ichnographia (1699) (Lhwyd was Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum). This may well rank Alban Thomas as the earliest known dealer in mineral specimens.

In 1713 Thomas was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society in London; Sir Isaac Newton was then President and Sir Hans Sloane was serving as Secretary. In 1719 he finally received his M.D. degree from the University of Aberdeen. It was this connection with Aberdeen which led some persons in Government circles to suspect that he had Jacobite leanings (the Jacobites were a political faction dedicated to restoring the Stuart family to the throne). Thomas was consequently compelled to leave London suddenly in March 1722 and felt obliged to stay away from the capital for some years before he could return.

After his return he found that he was unable to resume his medical work, and had to retire to his native district of Newcastle Emlyn in Wales, where he practised medicine until his death in 1771. He nevertheless continued to maintain his correspondence with Sir Hans Sloane in London. He was an associate of the antiquarian Moses Williams, who attempted to collect and publish manuscripts in the Welsh language, taking subscriptions in 1719 toward the publication of Collection of Writings in the Welsh Tongue, to the beginning of the Sixteenth Century, to be printed in several Volumes in Octavo. Thomas himself published a List of Fellows of the Royal Society of London in 1718.

Thomas married Elizabeth Seymour, but she died after giving birth to a child who also perished. After returning to Wales he married a relative, Margaret Jones, daughter of John Jones of Tyglyn and sister of the High Sheriff of Cardiganshire, who was related to Alban Thomas's old boss at the Ashmolean Museum, Edward Lhwyd.

References:
DAVIES, W.L. (2008) Alban Thomas (1686-1771). Welsh Biography Online.
Dictionary of Welsh Biography.
JONES, C. (ed.) Historic Cardiganshire Homes and their Families. PHYTHIAN-ADAMS, H.(2009?) Mynachty Mansion. http://www.llain.demon.co.uk/mansion.htm
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
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