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Sir Alfred Chester Beatty

Alfred Chester Beatty was born in New York in 1875, the youngest of three sons. Although named Alfred after a distant relative, he disliked his forename and always signed his name A. Chester Beatty.

Following his schooling in New York, Beatty graduated as a mining engineer from Columbia University and then he headed west, starting at the bottom shovelling rock in mines in Denver, Colorado. He worked hard and soon built up an international reputation as a mining engineer, establishing a highly successful mining consultancy in New York in 1908.

In 1900, he married Grace (Ninette) Rickard and they had two children. In 1911, Mrs Beatty died of typhoid fever. Suffering from ill health, Beatty left the busy world of mining in the USA and founded a new consultancy in London. In May 1912 he bought Baroda House at 24 Kensington Palace Gardens, London and the following year he married Edith Dunn of New York.

A collector of minerals, Chinese snuff bottles and stamps since childhood, as an adult Beatty began to collect more widely, buying European and Persian manuscripts. His interests found a new direction when, in 1914, he and Edith visited Egypt and bought some decorated copies of the Qur'an in the bazaars. The dry climate suited Beatty and he bought a house near Cairo, where he was to spend many winters.

A journey to Asia in 1917 added Japanese and Chinese paintings to his interests. His eye was drawn to richly illustrated material, fine bindings and beautiful calligraphy, but he was also deeply committed to preserving texts for their historic value.

Chester Beatty made a significant contribution to supplies of strategic raw materials for the Allies during the Second World War, for which he was later knighted. In 1950, he decided to move to Ireland and built a library for his art collection on Shrewsbury Road which opened in 1954. In 1957 Chester Beatty became Ireland's first honorary citizen.

Upon Beatty's death, the collection was bequeathed to a trust for the benefit of the public. His priceless collection lives on as a celebration of the spirit and generosity of Chester Beatty.