The London Science Museum in 6 Objects

Innovations that helped create the modern world

By Google Arts & Culture

Sokol-KV-2 rescue suit worn by Helen Sharman (1991)Science Museum

1. Helen Sharman's Space Suit, 1991

A chemist who became the first British astronaut, and the first Western European Woman, in Space, Helen Sharman was selected for Project Juno live on TV in 1989. In May 1991, Sharman was launched into space as part of the Soyuz TM-12 expedition and spent 8 days orbiting the Earth.

Sharman spent most of her time at the Mir Space Station where she carried out a series of scientific tests and experiments. The space suit that Sharman wore during her expedition is on display in London as part of the museum’s ‘Exploring Space’ exhibition.

Cassiobury Park turret clock (1600/1620)British Museum

Wells Cathedral Clock, 1390

A lot of the time, we associate the London Science Museum with modern breakthroughs. However, not all of their collection is from the contemporary age. This clock is a fantastic example of a fairly ancient object that was created using the cutting-edge know-how of its time.

The timepiece dates from the late 14th century, making it one of the oldest clocks in the world. It's displayed as part of the Museum’s ‘Making the Modern World’ exhibition, which charts some of the many breakthroughs and inventions that helped shape the world we live in today.

Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) pilot model (1949) by National Physical LaboratoryScience Museum

3. Pilot ACE computer, 1950

When you look at the size of your smartphone or laptop, it can be hard to imagine that single computers once took up entire rooms. The Pilot ACE was one of the first computers to be built in the UK. Constructed at the National Physical Laboratory, it was the brainchild of Alan Turing, legend of computing. 

Learning about how early computers were designed, built and developed will give you a better understanding of just how far our modern devices have come. Younger visitors in particular will be amazed by the sheer size of the machine and its – comparatively – limited functionality

Jason I' de Havilland DH 60G Gipsy Moth (1928) by De Havilland Aircraft CompanyScience Museum

4. Amy Johnson’s Gypsy Moth, 1928

Amy Johnson was an aviation pioneer and, in 1930, became the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia. She took off from Croydon Airport on 5th May and touched down in Darwin 19 and a half days, and 11,000 miles, later on the 24th May. 

Johnson’s most famous flight was made in a second hand De Havilland DH.60 Gipsy Moth that she named Jason. You can see this iconic plane, and learn more about Amy Johnson’s exploits, by visiting Jason at the Science Museum’s ‘Flight’ exhibition. 

Rotative steam engine by Boulton and Watt (1788) by James WattScience Museum

5. Boulton and Watt Rotative Beam Engine, 1788

The oldest essentially unaltered rotative engine in the world, this Rotative Beam Engine was built by James Watt in 1788. The engine was used at Matthew Boulton’s Soho Manufactory in Birmingham. There, it drove 43 metal polishing machines for 70 years.

Soon after the invention of the Boulton and Watt Rotative Beam Engine, steam became the main source of power for Britain’s factories. Steam-powered machines transformed UK manufacturing and propelled the country into the Industrial Revolution.  

Marconi transmitter used by 2LO (1922) by Marconi Company LtdScience Museum

6. Marconi 1.5kw Transmitter, 1922 - 25

In 1922, the Marconi 1.5kw Transmitter started broadcasting 2LO, the second radio station to regularly take to the UK’s airwaves. It began on the 11th May and broadcast for one hour a day from the second floor of Marconi House on The Strand. 

In November 1922, the station was transferred to the new British Broadcasting Company and the Marconi 1.5kw Transmitter went with it. The transmitter was donated to the Science Museum in 2002 and is now on display in the ‘Information Age’ gallery.  

Click and drag to explore the Science Museum for yourself! Can you find the above listed object? You can also explore its online exhibitions and displays, here

Credits: All media
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