Science Museum in London

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The Science Museum is one of the three major museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is part of the National Museum of Science and Industry. The museum is a major London tourist attraction.

Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Science Museum does not levy an admission charge. Temporary exhibitions, however, do usually incur an admission fee.

Origin and history

A museum was founded in 1857 under Bennet Woodcroft from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts and surplus items from the Great Exhibition as part of the South Kensington Museum, together with what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum. It included a collection of machinery which became the Museum of Patents in 1858, and the Patent Office Museum in 1863. This collection contained many of the most famous exhibits of what is now the Science Museum. In 1883, the contents of the Patent Office Museum were transferred to the South Kensington Museum. In 1885, the Science Collections were renamed the Science Museum and in 1893 a separate director was appointed. The Art Collections were renamed the Art Museum, which eventually became the Victoria and Albert Museum.

When Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the new building for the Art Museum, she stipulated that the museum be renamed after herself and her late husband. This was initially applied to the whole museum, but when that new building finally opened ten years later, the title was confined to the Art Collections and the Science Collections had to be divorced from it. On June 26, 1909 the Science Museum, as an independent entity, came into existence.

See also .

The Dana Centre

In November 2003, the Science Museum opened the Dana Centre. The centre is an urban bar and café annexed to the museum. It was designed by MJP Architects.

In October 2007 the Science Museum cancelled a talk by the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, James D. Watson, because he claimed that IQ test results showed blacks to have lower intelligence than whites. The decision was criticised by some scientists, including Richard Dawkins, as well as supported by other scientists, including Steven Rose.

Science Night

The Science Museum also organises "Science Night", "all night extravaganza with a scientific twist". Up to 380 children aged between 8 and 11, accompanied by adults, are invited to spend an evening performing fun "science based" activities and then spend the night sleeping in the museum galleries amongst the exhibits. In the morning, they're woken to breakfast and more science, watching an IMAX film before the end of the event.

Floor Directory

5th floor 4th floor 3rd floor 2nd floor
1 The Science and Art of Medicine

2 Veterinary History

1 Glimpses of Medical History

2 Psychology - Mind Your Head

1 Flight

2 Health Matters
3 In Future
4 Launchpad
5 Motionride Simulator
6 Science in the 18th Century

1 Computing

2 Dan Dare & The Birth of Hi-Tech Britain
3 Energy
4 Mathematics
5 Ships
6 Atmosphere

1st floor Ground floor Lower Ground floor Basement floor
1 Agriculture

2 Challenge of Materials
3 Cosmos & Culture
4 Listening Post
5 Measuring Time
6 Plasticity
7 Telecommunications
8 Who Am I?

1 Antenna - What's New in Science?

2 Energy Hall
3 Exploring Space
4 Fast Forward
5 Force Field
6 IMAX 3D Cinema
7 Making the Modern World
8 Pattern Pod
9 The Theatre

Cloakroom 1 The Garden

2 The Secret Life of the Home
3 Things


The Science Museum is made up of a number of galleries, some of which are permanent, and some of which are temporary.

Power: The East Hall

The East Hall is the first area that most visitors see as they enter the building, stretching up through three floors. On the ground, the area is mostly filled with iconic steam engines of various sorts, including the oldest surviving James Watt beam engine, which together tell the story of the British industrial revolution. Up in the air, suspended from the ceiling is a giant metallic ring, the inside of which is covered in white LEDs which form patterns and display messages typed into kiosks by visitors in the Energy gallery. From 30 April 2008 until 1 November 2010 the hall houses Dan Dare & the Birth of Hi-tech Britain, an exhibition which "explores the role played by technology in creating post-war Britain."

Exploring Space

Exploring Space is a historical gallery, filled with rockets and exhibits that tell the story of human space exploration and the benefits that space exploration has brought us (particularly in the world of telecommunications).

Making the Modern World

Making the Modern World is a relatively new gallery, in which some of the museum's most iconic objects, including Stephenson's Rocket and an Apollo spacecraft, are imaginatively displayed along a timeline chronicling man's technological achievements.


Flight is another longstanding gallery, up towards the western end of the third floor. Contained in the gallery are several full sized aeroplanes and helicopters, including Alcock and Brown's transatlantic Vickers Vimy (1919), Spitfire and Hurricane fighters, as well as numerous aero-engines and a cross-section of a Boeing 747.


One of the most popular galleries in the museum is the interactive Launchpad gallery. Redesigned and reopened in November 2007, the new look gallery houses over 50 interactive exhibits illustrating many different concepts in physical science. The gallery is staffed by Explainers who are available to demonstrate how exhibits work, conduct live experiments and perform shows to schools and the visiting public.

Touring exhibitions

The Science Museum has developed many touring exhibitions over the years. The Science Box contemporary science series toured various venues in the UK and Europe in the 1990s and from 1995 The Science of Sport appeared in various incarnations and venues around the World. In 2005 The Science Museum teamed up with Fleming Media to set up The Science of... who develop and tour exhibitions including The Science of Aliens, The Science of Spying and The Science of Survival .

In 2008, The Science of Survival exhibition opened to the public and allowed visitors to explore what the world might be like in 2050 and how humankind will meet the challenges of climate change and energy shortages.


The museum is adjacent to the Natural History Museum and used to be connected to it by a public corridor, which is now closed. The closest London Underground station is South Kensington; a subway connects the museums to the station.

At the front of the museum to the east is Exhibition Road. Immediately to the south is Museum Lane and the Natural History Museum. To the rear is Queen's Gate and to the north is Imperial College.

Transport connections

Service Station/Stop Lines/Routes served
London Buses Kensington Museums 360
Victoria & Albert Museum 14, 74, 414, C1
London Underground South Kensington


The Science Museum underwent a series of refurbishments as part of a vision to update the museum. The East Hall has been finished and the renovated museum shop opened in October 2005.


The Science Museum's website has a variety of features, including collections information and the award-winning Launchball game.


The museum joined the project in 2009 in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint. One year later it announced that it had reduced its carbon emissions (according to 10:10's criteria) by 17%.

Centennial volume: Science for the Nation

The leading academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan published the official centenary history of the Science Museum on 14 April 2010. The first complete history of the Science Museum since 1957, Science for the Nation: Perspectives on the History of the Science Museum is a series of individual views by Science Museum staff and external academic historians of different aspects of the Science Museum's history. While it is not a chronological history in the conventional sense, the first five chapters cover the history of the museum from the Brompton Boilers in the 1860s to the opening of the Wellcome Wing in 2000. The remaining eight chapters cover a variety of themes concerning the Museum's development.

Directors of the Science Museum

The Directors of the South Kensington Museum were:

  • Henry Cole CB (1857–1873)
  • Sir Philip Cunliffe-Owen KCB KCMG CIE (1873–1893)

The Directors of the Science Museum have been:

  • Major-General Edward R. Festing CB FRS (1893–1904)
  • William I. Last (1904–1911)
  • Sir Francis Grant Ogilvie CB (1911–1920)
  • Colonel Sir Henry Lyons FRS (1920–1934)
  • Colonel E. E. B. Mackintosh DSO (1933–1945)
  • Dr Herman Shaw (1945–1950)
  • Dr F. Sherwood Taylor (1950–1956)
  • Sir Terence Morrison-Scott DSc FMA (1956–1960)
  • Sir David Follett FMA (1960–1973)
  • Dame Margaret Weston DBE FMA (1973–1986)
  • Sir Neil Cossons OBE FSA FMA (1986–2000)
  • Dr Lindsay Sharp (2000–2002)

The following have been Head/Director of the Science Museum in London, not including its satellite museums:

  • Jon Tucker (2002–2007, Head)
  • Prof. Chris Rapley CBE (2007 – present, Director)

The following have been Directors of the National Museum of Science and Industry, which oversees the Science Museum and other related museums, from 2002:

  • Dr Lindsay Sharp (2002–2005)
  • Jon Tucker (2005–2006, Acting Director)
  • Prof. Martin Earwicker FREng (2006–2009)
  • Molly Jackson (2009)
  • Andrew Scott CBE (2009–2010)
  • Ian Blatchford (2010–)

External links