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Science Museum hosts London’s most glamorous party

The Evening Standard’s tenth celebration of London’s most influential people – the Progress 1000 – took place at the Science Museum last night, attended by a glittering array of partygoers including HRH The Prince of Wales, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dame Ann Dowling and Mercury Prize winner, Benjamin Clementine.

The Mayor of London and Mrs Khan meeting HRH The Prince of Wales.
The Mayor of London and Mrs Khan meeting HRH The Prince of Wales. c Jody Kingzett for Science Museum

The focus of the celebrations of the Standard’s top 1000 Londoners – which includes Science Museum director Ian Blatchford and Director of External Affairs Roger Highfield – was Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, which opens in the museum on 8 December and marks the final chapter of Dame Zaha Hadid’s legacy in London.

HRH The Prince of Wales – ‘Londoner of the Decade’ – was welcomed into the Science Museum by Ian Blatchford with Dame Mary Archer,  Chair of the Board of Trustees, Sarah Sands, Editor of the Evening Standard, Ian Walker, Deputy Editor, and Evgeny Lebedev, Proprietor.

Actor Joanna Lumley (l) with Dame Mary Archer, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Science Museum and Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group.
Actor Joanna Lumley (l) with Dame Mary Archer, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Science Museum and Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group.

After the Synergy Choir sang Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass, Sarah Sands stood before an image of London taken from space by Tim Peake, and declared to the celebrity audience, including many ‘mathletes’: ‘can there be any better place to celebrate innovation and progress? Thank you Science Museum for having us.’

She added that Ian Blatchford is her ‘favourite boffin.’

The audience warmly applauded when Blatchford paid tribute to Dame Zaha, who so tragically passed away earlier this year, and knew how to crystallise abstract mathematical thinking into beautiful physical forms.

With her unique mathematical background, which included a visit to the Science Museum in her teens, she regarded mathematics as a way of life.

Before her untimely death, she became one of the most sought-after architects on the planet,  the only female recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Zaha’s extraordinary legacy ranges from the Aquatics Centre she designed for the London Olympics to China’s Guangzhoi opera house. In the Science Museum, she leaves her first and only permanent public museum gallery, one that explores how mathematicians have changed the world over the last four hundred years.

Inspired by an experimental aircraft hanging in its heart, Dame Zaha laid out the gallery’s design using principles of mathematics and physics to help tell powerful stories about how mathematical practice has shaped, and been shaped by, human concerns – including money, life, war and death.

Last night guests were allowed an exclusive peek into her Mathematics Gallery, ahead of its opening on 8 December, with the kind permission of ZHA, David Harding, Claudia Harding and gallery funders Samsung and Mathworks.

What better way, said Blatchford, to tell millions of visitors that mathematics lies at the heart of all our lives?

Making The Modern World gallery at the Science Museum.
Making The Modern World gallery at the Science Museum. c Jody Kingzett for Science Museum

The subject of mathematics is so central to everyday life that the Science Museum is also tackling it in our amazing new interactive gallery, Wonderlab: The Statoil Gallery, which we hope will inspire millions – including 200,000 schoolchildren each year – when it opens next month.

Among the guests at the party in the Museum were: actors John Malkovich and Joanna Lumley; astronaut Helen Sharman; Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees; Terry Morgan of Crossrail; broadcasters Robert Peston, Nick Ferrari, Kay Burley, Cathy Newman and Tom Bradby; Sir Harpal Kumar, CEO of Cancer Research UK; barrister Cherie Blair; pop mathematicians Marcus du Sautoy, Hannah Fry and Alex Bellos; stand-up comedian Shazia Mirza; singer Camilla Kerslake; Tamara Rojo, the Lead Principal Dancer and Artistic Director of the English National Ballet; Josh Berger, President of Warner Brothers UK; Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre; architect Thomas Heatherwick  (who made pioneering early work Materials House for the Museum); Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson MP; politicians Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson MP and Nigel Farage MEP; Dame Natalie Massenet, Chairman of the British Fashion Council; executives Karren Brady, Sharon White and Edwina Dunn, and AI visionary Demis Hassibis of Google DeepMind, who will do an event with Roger Highfield later this month for the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Mayor Sadiq Khan, named the most influential person in London, told the throng that it was a ‘wonderful evening.’

Two years ago, HRH The Prince of Wales visited the Science Museum to launch Engineer Your Future, an interactive exhibition that aims to change young people’s perceptions of engineering. Since then almost a million people have visited the exhibition.

In Rugged Rovers, an online game specially designed for the exhibition, players can put their problem-solving skills to the test, designing a vehicle that can travel the furthest across a challenging alien landscape and competing against others rovers. Within three months of launching, over 1,000,000 rovers were drawn by players from around the world.