DISRAELI DOCUMENTS

The Science Museum

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The Science Museum - The Whippet 1885

The Science Museum - The Whippet 1885

The Science Museum - The Whippet thumbnail


The Science Museum - Gradient 1899

The Science Museum - Gradient 1899

The Science Museum - Gradient thumbnail

The Science Museum in London is one of the temples of my childhood. My father, who was one of the most natural atheists that I ever met (it never occurred to him that anything a stupid as God could ever exist) liked to take us there to worship at the altar of... well probably engineering more than science. Just like a real cathedral we attended infrequently but surprisingly regularly - and it was a big deal when we did.

In those days the museum had not been Disney-fied in a television-age attempt to capture the imagination of primary school children. Sure there were large Bakelite buttons to push which caused wheels to turn and cogs to grind, but mainly the museum was a display of mysterious holy objects. Objects that were important not because of what they could do, or what they could illustrate about science, but because of the role that they had played in the the history of science (or engineering), or perhaps even the role played by people I had never heard of who had once touched them. Mainly they were important because my father was so obviously impressed with them.

I particularly remember him describing some piece of electronic equipment in hallowed terms (perhaps it was Marconi’s original transmitter or something), and the thought going through my head that this looked like an old and very crummy version of his own Heathkit - but that its appearance was clearly deceptive and it was obviously immensely significant. After all, a remnant of the True Cross is both a tiny splinter of rather undistinguished, rough, timber and an object so valuable that it deserves a metre high, solid gold, reliquary encrusted with the most precious of gem stones. Such is the nature of awe.

Inevitably, the Science Museum has a mind-bending collection of bicycles.

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