Philanthroper, founder of a children's hospital/asylum
was born in Lyme Regis 1668 and had made his fortune in Massachusetts.
He returned to London to spend the remainder of his years there in 1720. The view of abandoned or even dead children in the streets of London was more than he could take it seems, in sharp contrast to most of his contemporaries.
He began to campaign on behalf of foundlings and unwanted children in 1722. For the next near 20 years he got on everyone's nerves asking for contributions, he even petitioned the King in his search for support. Fighting against the supposition that creating a place for bastards would 'encourage' immoral behaviour he must have been very convincing - he got the notoriously stringy King George II to give to his cause.
In 1741 the 'Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Children' was opened. It soon became known as 'The Foundling Hospital'. 30 children were admitted in the beginning, but the hospital grew and soon moved to its own building (north of Gray's Inn).
The children were sent to the country on admission, and stayed there with wet-nurses (Coram was strongly pro breast feeding, which was not a foregone conclusion at the time) until the age of 2 to 4 years. Only about 40% of them died, which was a lot better than the near 100% that workhouses produced.
Back at the hospital they were tought to read and write, the girls beginning household work at age 6, the boys given a longer education. At around age 12 they were apprenticed or sent to sea (boys) or found domestic work positions (girls).
The hospital grounds in central London were sold in the 1920ies, but Coram's Field still survives, a garden where grown-ups can only enter when 'accompanied by a child'.
The open arcades that were the work and play area for the children can be seen there.
The Coram Foundation is still in existence and carries on the hospital's work.
There is a picture of Thomas Coram by William Hogarth which can be found at http://www.haleysteele.com/hogarth/plates/coram.html
The hat in the lower left corner is in the picture because Coram also campaigned on behalf of the English hatters, and asked what he wanted in return said he wanted only a hat - he was kept in hats till the end of his life (in 1751) by the thankful hatters.