Alfred Chester Beatty [1875-1968] was born in New York of Scotch, Irish and English ancestry. In 1898 he achieved a degree in engineering at Columbia and moved west to find his fortune. By the time he returned to New York in 1905, he was a millionaire; it was there he began his collecting. He also had a family by this time: his wife Grace and two children, Ninette and Chester, Jr. His first collecting loves were books, manuscripts and incunabula. In 1911, his wife died of typhoid and this event, coupled with his desire to move into financing, led him to move to London. In 1913 he remarried, to a fellow American, the former Edith Dunn [d. 1952]. In their home on Kensington Square Gardens in London he displayed their collections, which had expanded to include papyri and eastern manuscripts. Edith concentrated on her collection of Impressionist paintings.
During World War II, Beatty sent much of the contents of the London home back to America, while the library remained in Kent. After dedicating himself to the war effort, he became disillusioned with post-war England and decided to move to Ireland, which he did in 1950. There he was greeted with open arms and tax benefits. The Chester Beatty Library was constructed in Dublin to house his collection, which he continued to expand. The Library, owned by a public trust, is now one of Ireland's premier cultural institutions. Beatty was also an important benefactor of the National Gallery in Dublin.