Science Museum celebrates its centenary

London’s great Science Museum opens its centenary celebrations today, with an invitation to visitors to vote for the object that is most significant in the history of science, technology and medicine.

The museum is proposing 10 candidates, of which the most ancient is Thompson’s Atmospheric Engine (1791), the oldest surviving industrial steam engine. The most recent is the Apollo 10 command module in which Tom Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan travelled around the Moon in 1969 (see picture below).

In between the museum is offering Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive, a Model T Ford car, the V2 rocket engine and Watson and Crick’s DNA model, among other exhibits. They have been arranged in a special Centenary Journey trail.

Further details of the Science Museum’s development plans for the beginning of its second century will be announced this morning. They include new galleries and an updated façade on Exhibition Road.

Lord Mandelson, head of the newly created Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) - the latest home for science in the government – says in a speech released last night ahead of today’s centenary launch: “Every time I come here, I feel like a kid again.

“And of course, every day hundreds of children and their parents walk through this Museum’s doors… What follows is wide-eyed amazement, lively debate and exciting experiments. It’s never boring.”

I agree with him. I’ll never forget my boyhood excitement coming to London to visit the Science Museum.

(And incidentally my vote for the museum’s top “centenary icon” goes to the Model T, with the DNA double helix in second place.)

NASA/SSPL

Apollo 10 is winched aboard its recovery vessel at the end of its lunar mission in May 1969 Credit: NASA/SSPL

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