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Celebrating Churchill’s Scientists with Sir Winston’s great-grandson

By Laura Singleton, Press Officer

‘Science isn’t a word most people associate with my great-grandfather’ said Randolph Churchill, standing in front of an imposing image of his iconic relative as he addressed journalists at the press preview of Churchill’s Scientists.

Randolph Churchill addresses guests at the media preview of Churchill's Scientists. Image credit: Science Museum

Randolph Churchill addresses guests at the media preview of Churchill’s Scientists. Image credit: Science Museum

The exhibition opened to the public today on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death. It celebrates a crucial, but often overlooked element of Churchill’s life and legacy – his relationship with science and the incredible breakthroughs that he championed during his time as Prime Minister, during the Second World War and post-war era.

Randolph told the audience that his great-grandfather had been fascinated with science from a young age. He lived through an age of great technological change, which saw the development of flight, electronics, atomic physics, telephones and televisions, mass consumerism and mass destruction.

He spoke of Sir Winston’s passion for aviation and how he was probably the first Government minister to learn how to fly, at a time when the sport was still considered highly dangerous. This story is brought to life in the exhibition through the display of a model aeroplane.

A guest peers at a model Bleriot plane in the exhibition. Image credit: Science Museum

A guest peers at a model Bleriot plane in the exhibition. Image credit: Science Museum

Randolph also read an extract from a prescient 1924 essay by his great-grandfather that highlighted Churchill’s acute awareness of both the creative and destructive potential of science. The essay speculates about “a bomb no bigger than an orange” with “the secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings – nay to concentrate the force of a thousand tons of cordite and blast a township at a stroke”.

Randolph Churchill examines a Jacob Epstein bust of Sir Winston Churchill. Image credit: Science Museum

Randolph Churchill examines a Jacob Epstein bust of Sir Winston Churchill. Image credit: Science Museum

Churchill’s Scientists illuminates other aspects of Churchill’s life including his love of fashion, shown in the display of a green velvet ‘siren suit’ – an all-in-one ‘romper suit’ which bears strong resemblance to the ‘onesie’. At the heart of the exhibition are the stories of the individuals who flourished under Churchill’s patronage, from Robert Watson-Watt, inventor of radar, to Bernard Lovell who created the world’s largest radio telescope, told through unique objects, original archive film footage, letters and photographs.

Randolph Churchill with a high speed camera that captured the first microseconds of the detonation of Britain's first atomic bomb. Image credit: Science Museum

Randolph Churchill with a high speed camera that captured the first microseconds of the detonation of Britain’s first atomic bomb. Image credit: Science Museum

The exhibition forms part of Churchill 2015, a year-long programme of events that commemorate Churchill’s life, work and achievements.

The exhibition is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, The Stanley Foundation and The de Laszlo Foundation. The exhibition is free and runs until March 2016.

Winston Churchill: style icon and inventor of the ‘onesie’

Martin Wise, Archivist at Turnbull & Asser shares the story behind Sir Winston Churchill’s famous ‘siren suit’, as one goes on display for the first time in the Museum’s new Churchill’s Scientists exhibition which opens next week

The ‘siren suit’, which bears resemblance to the infamous ‘onesie’, is a practical one-piece item of clothing originally designed by Sir Winston Churchill during the Second World War to be quickly slipped over his clothes in the event of an air raid. The great statesman had a variety of siren suits, which he referred to as ‘romper suits,’ including sombre, military style suits, as well as more extravagant pin-striped and velvet versions.

Winston Churchill wearing   one of his siren suits. Image credit: Turnbull & Asser

Winston Churchill wearing one of his siren suits. Image credit: Turnbull & Asser

There are only three original Winston Churchill siren suits known to be in existence, including a green velvet garment created by Turnbull & Asser. Churchill reportedly returned his siren suits to the Jermyn Street shirt-maker for repair on several occasions – damaged not through enemy action but by cigar burns.

It would seem that the former Prime Minister had developed something of a penchant for the outfit, opting to sport it for the most formal of occasions. Churchill wore one of these suits on a visit to the White House, Washington, in December 1941. At a press conference that week, Mrs Roosevelt declared she was having one made for her husband.

Winston Churchill making a BBC broadcast wearing one of his siren suits in on 30th November 1942. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Winston Churchill making a BBC broadcast wearing one of his siren suits on 30th November 1942. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

After the war, Churchill wore a siren suit again when he sat for sculptor Oscar Nemon in the 1950’s. After the sittings he gave the suit to Nemon as a souvenir. Small splashes of red paint on the trousers suggested Churchill also wore it whilst painting.

Due to Churchill’s rather large proportions, Turnbull & Asser have commissioned a bespoke mannequin to display the unique garment in the Science Museum. Expertly built using a fibreglass frame, the mannequin is covered in padding to mimic the former Prime Minister’s body shape, bringing the siren suit to life.

The pattern for Sir Winston Churchill's siren suit. Image credit: Turnbull & Asser

The pattern for Sir Winston Churchill’s siren suit. Image credit: Turnbull & Asser

For those wishing to emulate the British bulldog’s style, Turnbull & Asser are due to launch a Churchill-inspired capsule collection to mark the 50th anniversary of his death this year, celebrating a great man, whose bold style and strong leadership inspired a nation.

You can see the green velvet siren suit on display together with the cigar Churchill smoked on the evening of the 1951 election when he heard he had been re-elected as Prime Minister.

Churchill’s Scientists opens to the public on Friday 23 January. For more information visit our website.

Winston Churchill: Up In The Air

Rachel Boon, Content Developer, looks at the lesser known story of Winston Churchill’s passion for flying, soon to be revealed in a new exhibition, Churchill’s Scientists, which opens on 23 January. 

Sir Winston Churchill was passionate about technology, in particular aviation. He was one of the first people, and likely the first politician to learn how to fly. Heavier than air flight was less than a decade old when Churchill first jumped into the pilot seat. This was in the days when flying was still considered a dangerous sport and no pilot would let Churchill fly alone for fear that he may have an accident on their watch. He was a keen learner and was reported to go up in the air over ten times a day.

Winston Churchill after his arrival by air at Portsmouth, from Upavon, Wiltshire, 1914. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Winston Churchill after his arrival by air at Portsmouth, from Upavon, Wiltshire, 1914. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Fears about Churchill’s safety grew after one of his instructors, Captain Lushington was killed in a plane crash in Kent. Churchill reluctantly gave up his hobby in 1913, following pleas from his friends and wife Clementine, which is illustrated in many of their letters to each other. Clementine’s anxieties are reflected in one letter in which she says, “Your telegram arrived late last night, after we were in bed – every time I see a telegram now, I think it is to announce that you have been killed flying… goodbye dear but cruel one.”

Eventually, after giving up the sport, he sadly reflected, ‘This is a wrench. … Anyhow, I can feel I know a good deal about this fascinating new art … well enough to understand all the questions of policy which will arise in the near future.’

As Churchill’s political career developed he earned a living as a journalist. Although he never qualified for a pilot’s license, Churchill wasn’t one to miss an opportunity to write dramatically about learning to fly. He published two articles in Nash’s Pall Mall entitled “In the Air” and “Why I gave up flying: The story of two almost fatal crashes” in June and July 1924.

Flying model, enlarged "Eclipse", c. 1911. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Flying model, enlarged “Eclipse”, c. 1911. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

This is one of a pair of model Bleriot planes the Museum acquired with a note that one was ‘broken by Sir Winston Churchill when he was flying it with the Marquis of Blandford at Blenheim Castle‘. It is one of the star objects on display in the new exhibition Churchill’s Scientists which opens later this month.

The exhibition explores developments in science during the Second World War and post war period when Churchill was Prime Minister. This model plane is yet another example of Churchill’s hobby and it supports our story of his fascination with the potential of rapidly emerging new technologies of the 20th century.

Churchill’s Scientists opens to the public on Friday 23 January. For more details visit our website.

How To Survive A Christmas On Rations: Eat, Exercise And Be Merry

Rachel Boon, Content Developer, reveals the radical quest by two nutritionists to create a healthy national diet during the Second World War – one of the stories featured in a new exhibition, Churchill’s Scientists, which opens on 23 January.

The Second World War challenged the health of the home population as well as the fighting services. Even before the war, Britain depended on a huge quantity of imported goods, including food. Enemy ships targeted incoming Allied merchant vessels sending their precious cargo to the depths of the Atlantic.  As various items became scarce, food consumption was rationed.

Winston Churchill was keen, wherever possible, to limit austerity in the interests of morale. Even his scientific adviser, the teetotal Frederick Lindemann, was glad that the Ministry of Food undertook to provide the normal stocks of beer.

Used Ration Book, and two partly used Ration Book Supplements, issued by the Ministry of Food during the second World War. Image credit: Science Museum

Used Ration Book, and two partly used Ration Book Supplements, issued by the Ministry of Food during the Second World War. Image credit: Science Museum

This period saw the rise of a small group of scientists whose experimental research helped ensure people had enough food to survive.

Pioneering studies assessed the impact of rationing and established a healthy balance of available foods. Nutritionists Robert McCance and Elsie Widdowson led this investigation. Their task was to see how far food produced in Britain could meet the needs of the population and how much shipping could be saved.

Both scientists were familiar with self-experimentation before the war, having explored the chemical make-up of food and its effect on human health. Their book, The Composition of Foods was first published in 1940 and became a standard work in the field of nutrition.

This task was no different. Funded by the Medical Research Council, McCance, Widdowson and a small group of volunteers drastically reduced their intake of food and drink to a level some considered ‘intolerable’.  Although wholemeal bread and potatoes were unrationed, each person was allowed the following quantities per week: 110g fat, 150g sugar, one egg, 110g cheese, 450g meat and fish combined and quarter of a pint of milk a day.

After enduring this diet for three months, the volunteers moved to the Lake District for the second stage of their experiment. In chilly December 1940, the team proved that by enduring gruelling climbs, hikes and bicycle rides, this basic diet could meet the nation’s health needs.

Elsie Widdowson with volunteers in the Lake District. Image credit: Margaret Ashwell

Elsie Widdowson with volunteers in the Lake District. Image credit: Margaret Ashwell

One of McCance and Widdowson’s most important findings was the risk of calcium deficiency from a diet low in dairy products. Their recommendation for fortifying bread with calcium carbonate (chalk) was met with criticism, but later made law.  McCance and Widdowson’s work was made public after the war with their book, An Experimental Study of Rationing, published in 1946.

Table showing foods consumed during days of strenuous exercise. Image credit: Wellcome Library, London

Table showing foods consumed during days of strenuous exercise. Image credit: Wellcome Library, London

The book shows that even in the hardships of McCance and Widdowson’s  experiment, they celebrated Christmas with a hearty meal as their ‘calorie intake was affected by comfort and good cheer’. There was a plum pudding made from ingredients saved from the previous week’s rations and McCance ate five large potatoes ‘more than he had ever eaten in one day before’. This may sound familiar, but he had cycled for 52 miles the day before!

Extract showing calorie consumption on christmas day, from An Experimental Study of Rationing. Image credit: Medical Research Council

Extract showing calorie consumption on Christmas Day, from An Experimental Study of Rationing. Image credit: Medical Research Council

As you tuck into your plate of turkey, pigs-in-blankets, roast potatoes and that token Brussels sprout, spare a thought for those intrepid nutritionists whose experiments ensured people had enough food on their tables during the Second World War.

Churchill’s Scientists is a free exhibition that opens to the public on 23 January 2015. To find out more visit our website 

 

Celebrating Dorothy Hodgkin: Britain’s First Female Winner of a Nobel Science Prize

Rachel Boon, Content Developer, looks at the legacy of one of Britain’s most famous scientists, one of the stars of a new exhibition, Churchill’s Scientists, which opens in January 2015

Today marks exactly 50 years since Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, on 10 December, 1964. Hodgkin won the prestigious prize “for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances”. She was only the third woman to win the prestigious prize – the crowning achievement of a 30 year career spent unravelling the structures of proteins, including insulin.

Dorothy Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1964 for her studies using X-ray crystallography, with which she worked out the atomic structure of penicillin, vitamin B-12 and insulin. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Dorothy Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1964 for her studies using X-ray crystallography, with which she worked out the atomic structure of penicillin, vitamin B-12 and insulin. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Hodgkin first found fame when she finally solved the structure of penicillin on Victory in Europe Day in 1945.

Alexander Fleming had identified the anti-bacterial properties of penicillium mould in 1928 but thought the substance was too unstable to isolate as a drug.  At Oxford University Howard Florey, Ernst Chain and Norman Heatley proved otherwise and successfully purified the antibiotic for human use in 1941.

Once the potential was realised, vast amounts of the drug were needed. Chain spoke of his excitement and challenged Hodgkin to find its structure, promising ‘One day we will have crystals for you.’

Penicillin saved many lives during the Second World War. Allied governments recognised the potential of the ‘wonder drug’ and the race was on to convert a laboratory discovery into a mass- produced drug.

Hodgkin unravelled the structure of penicillin using a method called X-ray crystallography - a technique used to identify the structure of molecules. Hodgkin had been fascinated by crystals from a young age and on her sixteenth birthday received a book about using X-rays to analyse crystals, which greatly inspired her.

You can see Hodgkin’s three dimensional atomic structure of penicillin in our new exhibition opening in January.

Molecular model of penicillin by Dorothy Hodgkin, c.1945. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Molecular model of penicillin by Dorothy Hodgkin, c.1945. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Another notable molecular structure Hodgkin tackled was that of vitamin B12, which she cracked with the help of Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE computer, which is on display in our Information Age gallery.

The Pilot ACE (Automatic Computing Engine), 1950. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

The Pilot ACE (Automatic Computing Engine), 1950. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

These achievements had an immense impact on chemistry, biochemistry and medical science, establishing the power of X-ray crystallography, and changing the practice of synthetic chemistry.

She was one of the first people in April 1953 to travel from Oxford to Cambridge to see the model of the double helix structure of DNA, constructed by Briton Francis Crick and American James Watson, based on data acquired by Rosalind Franklin, which can also be seen in the Museum’s  Making the Modern World gallery.

Crick and Watson's DNA molecular model, 1953. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Crick and Watson’s DNA molecular model, 1953. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Hodgkin was awarded the Order of Merit, only the second woman to be honoured in this way after Florence Nightingale. She was also the first woman to be awarded the Royal Society’s Copley medal, its oldest and most prestigious award.

She died in July 1994, aged 84. In her honour, the Royal Society established the prestigious Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship for early career stage researchers.

The origins of the technique she used date back to when X-rays, one of the most remarkable discoveries of the late 19th century, had been shown to react strangely when exposed to crystals, producing patterns of spots on a photographic plate.

You can find out more about Dorothy Hodgkin in our new exhibition, Churchill’s Scientists, which opens on 23 January 2015. The exhibition will look at the triumphs in science during Churchill’s period in power, both in war and in the post-war era.

From Morse Code to Wikipedia – The Information Revolution Hits November Lates

Laura Singleton, Press Officer blogs about the last Lates evening of 2014, which celebrated the Science Museum’s new Information Age gallery

A crowd gathers as a woman standing on a plinth points a mobile phone up to the ceiling of the Information Age gallery. In her other hand is a cable, connected to a device which produces a mesmerising electronic sound. The sound changes in pitch and frequency as the woman and her performance partners make careful movements as if playing a musical instrument. Above people’s heads a faint chorus of voices can be heard, while the light beacons on the ceiling twinkle.

Visitors watch a musical performance of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Fiducial Voice Beacons artwork. Image credit: Science Museum

Visitors watch a musical performance of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Fiducial Voice Beacons artwork. Image credit: Science Museum

This ‘sound art’ performance by Professor of Media Computing at Goldsmiths, Atau Tanaka and his team is a musical interpretation of a new art commission,  Fiducial Voice Beacons by BAFTA award winning artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The performance was one of the highlights of the November Lates evening, which was designed around the theme of information and communication technology to celebrate the new Information Age gallery. The subject matter certainly seemed to capture people’s imagination, drawing in a crowd of 3,728 visitors to the Museum and providing a perfect close to our 2014 programme.

 

Charlotte Connelly, Content Developer gives a tour of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

Charlotte Connelly, Content Developer gives a tour of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

In an evening that managed to squeeze in 200 years of technological innovation into just over three hours, visitors were invited to hear Iain Logie Baird’s account of the first ever outdoor public broadcast by the BBC – the famous Nightingale broadcast of 1924, and the innovative microphone that made it possible. Elsewhere, Morse code and jewellery lovers could combine their interests to make special bracelets. Visitors exploring Information Age were encouraged to share their new pictures for a new Wikipedia page on the gallery too.

Those after a hint of nostalgia were drawn to a traditional looking telephone box supervised by BT, where people could enter the booth for photos to take away as personal mementoes of the evening.

Visitors queue up to take part in BT's Phone Box Photo Booth. Image credit: Science Museum

Visitors queue up to take part in BT’s Phone Box Photo Booth. Image credit: Science Museum

Meanwhile, on the second floor others were excited by the prospect of being able to handle iconic mobile phones from the 1980’s whilst browsing around the Information Age gallery and enjoying curators’ talks and drama character performances.

 

The Claude Shannon drama character entertains visitors in the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

The Claude Shannon drama character entertains visitors in the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

Keen readers were challenged to take part in Accenture’s fun speed-reading game and could even record their voice on Wikipedia in a separate test.

One of the 21st century’s latest milestones – the quest to explore Mars, was represented by the ExoMars Rover Bridget, where visitors were invited to meet the team from Airbus Defence who built her and ask questions about their work.

How old were you when you first went online? Have you ever been dumped by text message? These were the questions that generated a wall full of post-it notes as visitors of all ages were eager to share their memories of the technological milestones that unite all of us.

The next Lates evening will be on Wednesday 28 January 2015 and will look at the incredible world of engineering. You can find out more on our website.

Imitation Game Special Preview at the Science Museum

Laura Singleton, Press Officer, describes an extraordinary celebration of codebreaker and mathematician Alan Turing at an exclusive screening of the new film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch

Alan Turing’s remarkable story is “heart-breaking and shocking, but important to tell” said Morten Tyldum, Director of The Imitation Game, at a special preview screening at the Science Museum`s IMAX theatre.

Dave Calhoun, Global Film Editor at Time Out in conversation with Morten Tyldum, director of The Imitation Game. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

Dave Calhoun, Global Film Editor at Time Out in conversation with Morten Tyldum, Director of The Imitation Game. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills. 

Turing was “a puzzle and a mystery to explore” continued Tyldum when asked about his inspiration for making the film. He “wasn’t just a mathematician, he was a philosopher. It’s a tragedy he couldn’t stay with us longer” he added during a conversation with Dave Calhoun, Global Film Editor of Time Out about the making of the film, to a packed audience.

The conversation touched on the importance of authenticity – by finding locations (Turing’s old school and Bletchley Park) that worked best to tell the story, and praised the efforts of the actors for their emotional performances.

Morten Tyldum talks about  the making of the film to an audience in the Science Museum's IMAX. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

Morten Tyldum talks about the making of the film to an audience in the Science Museum’s IMAX. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs, began proceedings by welcoming guests and thanking Studio Canal for choosing the Science Museum as the venue for the screening. He declared that “the making of this film represents yet another welcome sign that Turing is at long last getting the recognition that he so richly deserves.”

He spoke of the growing public recognition of Turing’s incredible achievements, demonstrated by a recent public poll, in which over 50,000 people voted, in which Turing’s Universal machine emerged as the most important innovation in science and technology in the past century. The vote demonstrated that “even arcane mathematics can garner popular support”, which the Museum is keen to exploit in the forthcoming Mathematics gallery opening in 2016.

He then moved onto Benedict Cumberbatch’s visit to the Museum’s  award-winning Turing exhibition to help his preparation for  the role of Turing and the Pilot ACE computer, now one of the star objects in the new Information Age gallery, before giving a warm welcome to Tyldum.

Guests admire an Enigma machine in the reception held in the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

Guests admire an Enigma machine in the reception held in the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

At an earlier drinks reception in the Information Age gallery, an Enigma machine, brought out specially for the event, attracted crowds as Tyldum was joined by members of Turing’s family to pose for photographs.

The Imitation Game Director Morten Tyldum pictured with members of the Turing family in front of 1951-164 National Physical Laboratory's Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) pilot model and 1980-1200, Three-ring Enigma cypher machine. From Left to right; Mark Barnes (Husband of Rachel), Rachel Barnes (Daughter of Inagh Payne, Turings niece) Morten Tyldum, Tom Barnes (Son of Rachel) Shuna Hunt (Alan Turing's niece) Nevil Hunt (Son of Shuna Hunt).

The Imitation Game Director Morten Tyldum pictured with members of the Turing family in front of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) pilot model and 1980-1200, Three-ring Enigma cypher machine. From Left to right; Mark Barnes (Husband of Rachel), Rachel Barnes (Daughter of Inagh Payne, Turing’s niece) Morten Tyldum, Tom Barnes (Son of Rachel) Shuna Hunt (Alan Turing’s niece) Nevil Hunt (Son of Shuna Hunt). Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

The reception provided VIP guests including Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, science writer Marcus Chown and journalist and former Science Museum Trustee Janet Street-Porter, with an opportunity to marvel at the Pilot ACE computer and many of the other objects in the new gallery.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaks at Information Age reception

By Laura Singleton, Press Officer

Sir Tim Berners-Lee told a Parliamentary reception to celebrate the Science Museum’s new Information Age gallery he believes innovation will continue to overcome big challenges facing the world and specifically those facing the World Wide Web.

Solutions to data security will, he predicted, lie in what he called `redecentralising the web` through local storage of data. He told the audience of leaders from the world of science and technology that through `collaborative systems that are very much more powerful` the web will play an important part in solving massive global problems such as climate change and cancer.

The reception at Portcullis House was hosted by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), whose Chairman Adam Afriyie MP, introduced Sir Tim, remarking that he didn`t think it was `possible to overstate his impact on the development of modern culture’.

Adam Afriyie MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) welcomes guests to the event.

Adam Afriyie MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) welcomes guests to the event. Image credit: Earl Smith

Speaking modestly about his invention (`the thing that started when I wrote a memo`), Sir Tim recalled some of what he called the `nifty things` CERN did at the outset, such as agreeing that it wouldn`t charge royalties and letting him have a `machine to code the thing up`.

Thanks to that same generosity of spirit at CERN, the Information Age Gallery is now home to `that machine` – the NeXT computer on which Sir Tim invented the web. Having told the audience a little about the transformation in communications technology in which he has played such a fundamental role, Sir Tim urged the audience to `go to the Science Museum and learn about it`.

Alongside lighter moments such as his impression of a dial up modem, Sir Tim said he and others would continue ‘carrying placards’ to defend their original vision of the web as ‘neutral, like a blank piece of paper’, recognising that this would lead to ongoing robust exchanges with governments and others around the world.

Guests, including Professor Dame Wendy Hall and parliamentarians such as Sir Peter Bottomley MP and Baroness Jay, were invited to explore exhibits provided by the Science Museum and meet the Information Age exhibition team, including lead curator Dr Tilly Blyth. Future technologies were represented by Cubic Transportation Systems and Elsevier, which each showcased examples of how big data is shaping business, including transportation systems.

Martin Howell, Director, Worldwide Communications at Cubic Transportation Systems, which sponsored the event, spoke about the need to “get a balance between benefit and privacy”.

Martin Howell, Director, Worldwide Communications, Cubic Transportation Systems.

Martin Howell, Director, Worldwide Communications, Cubic Transportation Systems. Image credit: Earl Smith.

Jean Franczyk, Deputy Director of the Science Museum, spoke of her delight at the initial success of Information Age, which has already received 50,000 visitors, and thanked Sir Tim for his contribution to the gallery.

Jean Franczyk, Deputy Director of the Science Museum.

Jean Franczyk, Deputy Director of the Science Museum. Image credit: Earl Smith

From the first transatlantic telegraph cable that connected Europe and North America in minutes rather than weeks, to the advanced computing power of the modern smartphone, Information Age looks at the communication networks that created our modern connected world. The gallery features more than 800 stunning objects from a tiny thimble to the 6-metre high aerial tuning inductor from Rugby Radio Station that stands at its centre.

Last night’s event was attended by representatives of some of the organisations that helped to make Information Age possible such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, BT, ARM, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Google, Accenture, Garfield Weston Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, Bonita Trust and  Motorola Solutions Foundation.

The event followed last year’s successful reception for the Science Museum’s Collider exhibition, which was also hosted by POST and its Director, Dr Chris Tyler.

Earlier in the day, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham was among the guests at a POST seminar on Big Data and Governance.

Celebrating the opening of Information Age

By Laura Singleton, Press Officer

On Friday, we were delighted to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to open our pioneering new Information Age gallery at the Science Museum. The Queen opened the gallery by sending her first tweet, 76 years after her first visit to the Museum.

The Queen sends her first tweet to open the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

The Queen sends her first tweet to open the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

The historic moment took place in front of around 600 supporters of the Museum who had gathered to celebrate the opening of Information Age. The audience included communications entrepreneurs, authors and experts, from Baroness Lane Fox, Hermann Hauser and Mo Ibrahim to Prof Steve FurberJames GleickTom Standage and Sir Nigel Shadbolt.

Guests received a warm welcome from Ian Blatchford, Science Museum Director, before being treated to a performance of John Adams’ ‘A Short ride in a fast machine’ by the Philharmonia concert band.

Standing in front of the monumental aerial inductance coil from Rugby Radio which was donated to the Science Museum by BT, Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT Group, Lead Principal Sponsor of the gallery, spoke of his tremendous pride in seeing the iconic tuning coil reassembled and on public display.

The Queen meets Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT Group at the opening of the Information Age gallery.

The Queen meets Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT Group at the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

He used the opportunity to highlight some triumphs from BT’s history of pioneering new technologies, from the first electric telegram to the first transatlantic telephone call. He said that the “spirit of the Information Age creates a future of endless possibilities” and that BT was thrilled to be involved in the gallery.

Simon Segars, CEO of ARM, Principal Sponsor, stressed the growing need for more young people to take up careers in engineering, which he described as “vital to the future prosperity of the UK”.

The Queen meets Simon Segars, CEO of ARM. Image credit: Tim Anderson

The Queen meets Simon Segars, CEO of ARM. Image credit: Science Museum

Mr Segars described how his first visit to the Science Museum as a child had inspired him to pursue a career in engineering. He expressed his hopes that today’s young people would take similar inspiration from the Information Age gallery.

The relationship between the arts and science was the focus of Patricia E Harris’ speech as CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Principal Funder of the gallery. Ms Harris spoke of Bloomberg’s interest in supporting institutions that harness the power of both arts and technology, praising Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s new digital and interactive artwork in the gallery. Information Age was, she said, a “perfect fit” for Bloomberg’s support, as the Science Museum is one of the most popular museums in the UK.

The Queen meets Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Brian McClendon, VP Engineering, Google at the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Tim Anderson

The Queen meets Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Brian McClendon, VP Engineering, Google at the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

The Museum’s ability to inspire the next generation, was further highlighted by Brian McClendon, VP Engineering at Google and the founder of Google Earth. Google is a Principal Funder of the gallery and has contributed a number of objects including a Google Corkboard Server which is on display in the Web section of the gallery.

On arrival at the Museum, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were greeted by the Lord Lieutenant, Sir David Brewer, the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Maighread Condon-Simmonds, Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum and Dr Gill Samuels, Interim Chairman of the Science Museum Group. Her Majesty also received a welcome cheer in the Energy Hall from a group of children from Marlborough Primary School who were visiting the Museum that day.

The Queen is greeted by school children as she enters the Museum with Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford. Image credit: Tim Anderson

The Queen is greeted by children from Marlborough Primary School as she enters the Museum with Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford. Image credit: Tim Anderson

Within the Information Age gallery, Lead Curator Tilly Blyth gave The Queen a short tour of some of the exhibition highlights, from a bright yellow call box from Cameroon to the BBC’s first radio transmitter from 1922. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh also visited the broadcast area of the gallery and listened for the first time to recordings of the personal recollections of people whose first experience of television was watching the Coronation in 1953.

Following the tour, Ian Blatchford welcomed The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, describing Information Age as “the beginning of a renaissance for the Museum”. He thanked BT for its generous donation of 80 objects to the gallery and expressed his delight that “our friends at CERN have lent us Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, the first web server.”

Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford welcomes The Queen to the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford welcomes The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh to the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

Carole Souter CBE, Chief Executive of The Heritage Lottery Fund emphasised the importance of collaboration between public and private donors and their £6 million contribution to the gallery. She spoke warmly of HLF’s “great respect and fondness” for the Science Museum and our commitment to bringing science and technology to life in a way that everyone can relate to.

The Queen meets Carole Souter, CEO of the Heritage Lottery Fund at the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Tim Anderson

The Queen meets Carole Souter, CEO of the Heritage Lottery Fund at the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

The Queen later accepted an Honorary Fellowship of the Science Museum from Dr Gill Samuels, Interim Chairman of the Trustees. The presentation was made by Michael G Wilson OBE, Chairman of the Science Museum Foundation and Ms Edwina Dunn, Trustee of the Foundation. The Fellowship is an honour normally awarded to outstanding scientists.

The Queen is presented with a Science Museum Fellowship at the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Tim Anderson

The Queen is presented with a Science Museum Fellowship at the opening of the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum

Inviting The Queen to open the gallery, Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford remarked on how royalty had embraced communications technology, from the day Queen Victoria took an interest in the invention of the telephone, which was demonstrated to her in January 1878 by Alexander Graham Bell at Osborne House, Isle of Wight. “Your Majesty has followed in this tradition,” said Mr Blatchford. “You made the first live Christmas broadcast in 1957 and an event relished by historians took place on 26 March 1976, when you became the first monarch to send an email, during a visit to the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment.”

He then invited The Queen to join him to “send your first Tweet”. The Queen removed a glove to send her pioneering tweet from the @BritishMonarchy Twitter account.

Following a fanfare from the Philharmonia, The Queen was presented with a specially created bouquet of flowers by Catherine Patterson, the daughter of Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT Group. Made from punch cards and telegraph printing tape, the bouquet was designed by Mark Champkins, the Science Museum’s Inventor in Residence.

Catherine Patterson presents an 'information bouquet' to HM The Queen. Image credit: Tim Anderson

Catherine Patterson presents an ‘information bouquet’ to The Queen. Image credit: Science Museum

The Information Age gallery is now open to the public on the second floor of the Science Museum. More information can be found on our website.

Information Age has been made possible through the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, BT (Lead Principal Sponsor), ARM (Principal Sponsor), Bloomberg Philanthropies and Google (Principal Funders). Major Funders include the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Bonita Trust and Motorola Solutions Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Accenture (Connect Circle Sponsor) as well as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Cambridge Wireless (CW) Qualcomm Foundation, The David and Claudia Harding Foundation and other individual donors. The Science Museum would also like to thank the BBC for their assistance.

Revealing The Real Cooke and Wheatstone Telegraph Dial

John Liffen, Curator of Communications, blogs about an important discovery to be displayed for the first time in our new Information Age gallery opening 25 October 2014.

The Science Museum’s new Information Age gallery features over 800 objects spanning 200 years of telecommunications. Many have been on display before, but most are on show for the first time in this gallery. Among these are newly-acquired objects that show the latest developments in communications, while others are drawn from the Museum’s extensive collections.

One object in particular represents what we believe to be a major discovery.

The object in question is a large Cooke and Wheatstone electric telegraph dial, on loan from Kings College London since 1963. The object has never before been on public display because of doubts over its authenticity. However, I am now confident that it dates from 1837, the year that the practical electric telegraph was introduced in Britain.

Cooke and Wheatstone's Five Needle Telegraph © Science Museum

The newly-identified Cooke and Wheatstone Five Needle Telegraph, 1837 © Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

Since 1876, the Museum has displayed a smaller five-needle instrument and has claimed it to be one of the original instruments installed at either Euston or Camden Town in 1837 when Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke demonstrated their electric telegraph system to the directors of the newly-opened London and Birmingham Railway.

I had long been suspicious of this because there were several technical features which just did not ‘add up’. All the history books repeated the Museum’s assertion about its originality and yet there was no real evidence to confirm it. I decided it was time to find out for certain.

The smaller Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph instrument, now believed to date from about 1849 © Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

The smaller Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph instrument, now believed to date from about 1849 © Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

I researched the whole story again, this time using only contemporary records such as Cooke’s letters, other manuscript documents and press reports. After much work, I concluded that the large dial was almost certainly one of the two 1837 originals, whereas the smaller instrument was likely to be one of the working models made for demonstration at a High Court hearing in 1850 when a rival company was disputing Cooke and Wheatstone’s priority in the invention.

The layout of the dial was Wheatstone’s idea. Any of the 20 letters on the dial can be indicated by making the appropriate pair of needles point to it. No knowledge of a code is needed and the dial is big enough for a crowd of people to see it working. Then as now, good salesmanship was needed to put over new technology.

Sheet 1 of the drawings for Cooke and Wheatstone’s 1837 electric telegraph  © Science Museum/ Science and Society Picture Library

Sheet 1 of the drawings for Cooke and Wheatstone’s 1837 electric telegraph © Science Museum/ Science and Society Picture Library

So why is this discovery so important?

The electric telegraph was the first practical use of electricity and from the 1840s onwards it transformed world communications. After a transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1866, messages between Europe and North America took only hours to arrive rather than weeks. Moreover, Cooke saw the emerging railway system as a major customer for the new technology. To operate safely, the railways needed to observe a timetable based on a standard time system.

View taken from under the Hampstead Road Bridge  looking towards the station at Euston Square, 1837

View taken from under the Hampstead Road Bridge looking towards the station at Euston Square, 1837 © Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

The electric telegraph enabled Greenwich time to be distributed right across Britain, and within a few years local time, based on the times of sunrise and sunset, had been replaced by standard (Greenwich) time. The telegraph could also help catch criminals. In 1845 a message sent from Slough railway station to Paddington enabled murder suspect John Tawell to be identified, arrested, and in due course, executed.

After many years of doubt, I am now satisfied that one of the key inventions from the beginning of electric telegraphy has been authenticated and rightly takes its place in our new Information Age gallery.