Robert Carson (numismatist)
Robert Carson was educated at Kirkcudbright Academy, He was awarded a first in classics at Glasgow Caledonian University where one of his teachers was Professor Anne S. Robertson, curator at the Hunterian Museum and a specialist in Roman coins. He served in the Royal Artillery in north-west Europe, rising to captain. He married in 1949 and had two children.
In 1947, he joined the British Museum's department of coins and medals as an assistant keeper. This continued his engagement with classics, and he learned Roman numismatics under the guidance of Harold Mattingly. In 1965 he was appointed deputy keeper. He became a leading expert on Roman coins, and rose to Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British Museum from 1978 to 1983.
He entered the museum's Roman coins on to its first computer database, a record which provided the basis for the Roman coin entries on the museum-wide Merlin collection database. He quickly became frustrated by the irrationality of the old common law under which only hoards of gold and silver coins received legal protection and, making use of new evidence from the metallurgical analysis of Roman coins, successfully argued that hoards of late Roman coins that contained a silver content as low as one or two per cent should be regarded as Treasure Trove. In this way, many important hoards which might otherwise have been dispersed were recorded and acquired by museums. The practice had to stop in 1982 when, as a result of a legal challenge, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning, decided that only objects with at least 50 per cent of gold or silver could be Treasure Trove. It took another 14 years before a new law, the Treasure Act, finally brought in an objective definition of treasure.
Robert Carson was portrayed in a numismatic roman à clef, The Coin Collectors (1997), by his friend and colleague the Belgian Pierre Bastien. "The chief curator was tall, with blond hair, and an angular face brightened by piercing eyes. His personality radiated kindness, tempered by a slight coolness, rather characteristic of the well-educated Englishman." It was an accurate description of Robert's appearance and his character, but not of his nationality.