Tag Archives: travel

Wonderful Things: Leica M2 camera

In a rather unassuming cabinet on the ground floor, sits a humble piece of equipment that changed the way we see the world.

In 1972 the Leica M2 35mm camera was used by photojournalist Nick Ut to shoot his momentous, Pulitzer prize-winning picture of the disrobed nine year old girl Kim Phuc running toward the camera, away from a South Vietnamese napalm attack . This iconic image has become synonymous with the war in Vietnam.

Children running from napalm attack, Vietnam 1972

Children running from napalm attack, Vietnam 1972

The manufacturer of this camera, Leitz, originally produced microscopes and scientific optics. The M2 was a more affordable camera than its predecessor, the Leica M3, and had provisions for a wider angled lens, making it possible for photographers like Nick Ut to record defining moments in history.


The Leica M2 camera changed the way we see the world

The Leica M2 camera changed the way we see the world


This little piece of technology tells a huge story:  it allowed people to witness the barbarous nature of human conflict. The Vietnam War was in fact the first war to be televised and documented in real time.

Science and technology were at the helm of society at the time of the Vietnam War (mid-fifties to mid-seventies), with advents like the silicon chip, the microprocessor, the artificial heart and of course, the space race. In one fell swoop this object demonstrates two faces of science and technology. The negative side is the use of napalm, a chemical designed to cause maximum destruction and fear. The positive, of course, is the camera itself, developed by humankind to better understand the world around itself.

Bonus: the same kind of camera also captured one of the most reproduced images in history. .. that famous photo of the revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, so often seen on t shirts, bags and walls for the past 50 years!

Today it is easy for any of us to report on the world around us. With mobile phone cameras and social networks at our fingertips, we can quickly capture an instant in time and communicate it to the rest of the world. But is anyone listening?

  • Have you ever taken a photo that changed people’s minds?

The Leica M2 camera is in the Making the Modern World gallery, on the ground floor.

-James Carmody

Can we all become astronauts?

Last month, the world celebrated 50 years since the first manned spaceflight, by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Yuri became the first man in space after completing a single orbit of Earth on the Soviet spacecraft Vostok, in April 1961 (at the Science Museum we actually have a fantastic drama event about Yuri’s incredible journey).

Last month, a lot of people also went on holiday for the Easter period. We traveled by plane, on trains and by water. Technology has developed by leaps and bounds since Yuri first saw the Earth from above, likewise, so has our desire to visit faraway destinations; people now take holidays abroad for granted.

Once upon a time those faraway destinations were mapped by explorers, before tourists followed in their footsteps… Deserts were crossed, mountains were conquered, lives were lost to chart the rainforests. But it wasn’t long ’til curious amateur adventurers also found their way to these once-unknown places.

Space appears to be no different. Virgin Galactic is currently taking bookings for their space flights, so any of us can be an astronaut! Well, any of us healthy and wealthy enough to afford that $200,000 ticket.

Holidays in space for everyone?

Seeing the Earth from above has changed people’s lives. Jim Lovell, who was on the Apollo 8 and 13 missions, has said “It gives you in an instant…(an idea of) how insignificant we are, how fragile we are, and how fortunate we are to have a body that will allow us to enjoy the sky and the trees and the water.” And Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist to visit the International Space Station in 2006, announced that “if people can see Earth from up here, see it without those borders, see it without any differences in race or religion, they would have a completely different perspective. Because when you see it from that angle, you cannot think of your home or your country. All you can see is one Earth.”

Earth from space

Earth from space

Perhaps it is something we could all benefit from experiencing- in fact, could it one day be a right just like education? So how long will it be before holidays in space really become commonplace? And should there be a low-cost alternative for those of us who don’t mind a little less legroom?