Space and Ti(e)me

It’s been an astronomical few days: The Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society appeared on the radio to talk about all the big scientific truths that, apparently, ‘we’ll never know’, we celebrated the Summer Solstice, we saw Dr Who at Stonehenge, and - last Thursday - the Director of the Taipei Astronomical Museum came to the Science Museum.

As a parting gift he presented me with a tie depicting the Sun and planets. I had come to work in suit and open collar shirt so I was able to don it immediately much to his delight.

Ties (left to right) Japanese Space Agency, HOTOL project, Hubble Space Telescope, Taipei Astronomical Museum, European Space Agency, Huygens mission

Ties (left to right) Japanese Space Agency, HOTOL project, Hubble Space Telescope, Taipei Astronomical Museum, European Space Agency, Huygens mission (Doug Millard, 2010)

I’ve acquired several space ties over the years and worn all of them but, like other items recently discussed on this blog, there is also good reason for adding them to the Museum’s collections.

Wearing or giving a tie makes a social statement. Many a historian of science argues that we can understand the scientific process better by studying the social world of the scientist, so why shouldn’t this include studies of their tie-wearing world?

The tie in 21st century science tends to be reserved for official occasions with most practising scientists working in open-neck shirts and tops. Wearing a ready-made noose in the laboratory or workshop might not be the best plan…

Scientist sporting tie (and pipe), 1970

Scientist sporting tie (and pipe), 1970 (Science Museum/Science & Society)

I discovered we do already have some neckties in the Collections including those worn by staff members of the Royal Train, one made especially to mark the third Millennium which is adorned with stars, space rockets and a quote from Einstein: (‘I never think of the future. It comes soon enough’).

Millennium Tie with Einstein Quote

Millennium Tie with Einstein Quote (Science Museum/Science & Society)

Maybe we should acquire one of Dr Who’s bow ties too, despite the Astronomer Royal reminding us that the time machine will likely remain forever fiction.

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