The Wellcome Trust was established in 1936 on the death of Sir Henry Wellcome, one of the founders of the pharmaceuticals company Burroughs Wellcome & Co and the sole owner after Silas Burroughs' death in 1895. In 1924 he consolidated his commercial and philanthropic activities in the Wellcome Foundation.
In his will, Wellcome vested the entire share capital of the Wellcome Foundation in five individual Trustees who were to use the income from the company to support medical research and research into the history of medicine.
The Trust remained sole shareholder of the Foundation until 1986, when the latter was floated on the stock Exchange as Wellcome plc. The company merged with Glaxo in 1995 to form Glaxo Wellcome plc, which merged with SmithKline Beecham plc in 2000 to form GlaxoSmithKline.
In 2007 the Wellcome Trust is the world's second-largest charity. It has an investment portfolio worth more than £10 billion and invests £450 million a year in medical research.