Auction preview: ‘Pioneering’ scientist’s medals up for auction

Later this month, several medals belonging to a “pioneering” scientist are slated to cross the block for £1,600-£2,300 ($2,725-$3,925 Cdn.) in the Spink sale of Orders, Decorations, Campaign Medals and Militaria.

The sale, scheduled for July 21, includes two interesting items – Lots 167 and 168 – awarded to a Dr Harold King, who’s best known for his work on the South-American poison curare. Curare has been used for centuries as a paralyzing poison by a vast number of the indigenous peoples of South America. Although it’s a well-known method, the exact mechanism remained an unknown at the beginning of the 20th century.

King successfully discovered its toxin in 1935 and confirmed the structure in later discoveries. His breakthrough work initially assisted surgical work, but his research eventually led to the development of the first widely available drugs in the fight against hypertension (high blood pressure). His studies were pioneering in furthering the work of Sir Henry Hallett Dale, the father of the understanding of neurotransmission.

“The achievements of Dr. King and the scientific importance of his discoveries make these items extremely rare,” said auctioneer Marcus Budgen. “We expect a lot of interest in these exceptional awards”



This gold Hanbury Medal is estimated to hammer down at more than $2,000.

King graduated from Bangor University in 1909, later working in the Wellcome Laboratories and for the Medical Research Council, for the National Institute for Medical Research, until his retirement in 1950.  He was elected to the Royal Society in 1933.

His CBE is to be sold alongside his extremely rare Hanbury Gold Medal of 1941, and his Addingham Gold Medal. The Hanbury Medal is awarded for “high excellence in the prosecution or promotion of original research in the natural history and chemistry of drugs” and reflects the importance of Dr. King’s achievement.

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