Science Museum Library and Archives

Science Museum Library and Archives The Science Museum Library and Archives is one of the world’s leading research repositories for the history of science and technology. Anyone can access the collections. Twitter: @galileosballs
With over 500,000 items from Newton to Einstein, the collections include archives and original works which have shaped our understanding of the world.

Our collections include: Archives of some of the most famous and influential individuals and companies in the fields of science, medicine, engineering and industry. Original printed works include books, journals, patents, trade literature, directories and maps. These chart the world-wide development of science, engineering and medicine from the fifteenth to the twentieth-first centuries. A world-class collection of books and journals on the history and biography of science, technology and medicine, and their social impact. Digital collections include journals, indexes and other full-text electronic resources such as JSTOR, Oxford reference resources and the Times Digital Archive. These are available in both reading rooms (London and Wroughton).

Mission: To preserve, develop and enable free and equitable access to world class science, technology and medicine library and archive collections from the past and the present so that those engaged in research, learning, innovation and enterprise may learn and benefit from them.

02/07/2015

So long & thanks for all the fish..I mean, followers! This a/c closes on 03/07 but we'll still be tweeting on @sciencemuseum Pls follow us!

01/07/2015

So long & thanks for all the fish..I mean, followers! This a/c closes on 03/07 but we'll still be tweeting on @sciencemuseum Pls follow us!

30/06/2015

So long & thanks for all the fish..I mean, followers! This a/c closes on 03/07 but we'll still be tweeting on @sciencemuseum Pls follow us!

29/06/2015

So long & thanks for all the fish..I mean, followers! This a/c closes on 03/07 but we'll still be tweeting on @sciencemuseum Pls follow us!

26/06/2015

So long & thanks for all the fish..I mean, followers! This a/c closes on 03/07 but we'll still be tweeting on @sciencemuseum Pls follow us!

Thanks to the Highworth Historical Society for their visit to our Wroughton Library today.Our visitors were taken behind...
27/11/2013

Thanks to the Highworth Historical Society for their visit to our Wroughton Library today.

Our visitors were taken behind the scenes at the Library to see our collections. We displayed some of our oldest and rarest books as well as local interest items such as 16th century maps and Victorian railway accounts.

Members of the society particularly enjoyed seeing Dickinson's pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and images of tomb paintings from The Napoleonic Survey of Egypt.

We offer free research visits for groups on Wednesdays. If you are interested in arranging a visit we can tailor a display to your group's interests and research needs. Please contact us for further information.

Thanks to Rediscovering Culture for this review of our Alchemy exhibition!http://rediscoveringculture.com/2013/11/signs-...
21/11/2013
Signs, Symbols and Secrets: an Illustrated Guide to Alchemy in the Science Museum, London. -...

Thanks to Rediscovering Culture for this review of our Alchemy exhibition!

http://rediscoveringculture.com/2013/11/signs-symbols-and-secrets-an-illustrated-guide-to-alchemy-in-the-science-museum-london/

The Science Museum in London is one of my favourite places to visit. It full of artefacts and information about people and processes that have made a huge difference to our world. On my last excursion I was planning to skip… Read more ›

KEPLER’S SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSEJohannes Kepler, the German mathematician and astronomer, died on this day in 1630.Thi...
15/11/2013

KEPLER’S SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE

Johannes Kepler, the German mathematician and astronomer, died on this day in 1630.

This image is from Mysterium Cosmographicum, which according to Kepler, ‘Contains the Secret of the Universe’. It’s an ingenious model of the solar system – or all six planets that were known about at this time.

In 1595 Kepler was struck by the realisation that he could use the geometry of these polyhedra to work out the orbits and spacing of the planets. He explained it in his book,

‘The earth’s orbit is the measure of all things; circumscribe around it a dodecahedron, and the circle containing this will be Mars; circumscribe around Mars a tetrahedron, and the circle containing this will be Jupiter; circumscribe around Jupiter a cube, and the circle containing this will be Saturn. Now inscribe within the earth an icosahedron, and the circle contained in it will be Venus; inscribe within Venus an octahedron, and the circle contained in it will be Mercury.’

Kepler’s scheme was astonishingly accurate for its time and the first book to champion and use Copernicus’ sun-centred theories. Kepler went on to discover that planets moved about the sun in elliptical orbits and created his laws of planetary motions for which he is best remembered today.


‘... the ways by which men arrive at knowledge of the celestial things are hardly less wonderful than the nature of these things themselves’

- Johannes Kepler

Image from ‘Mysterium Cosmographicum’ by Johannes Kepler 1596 (our ref. O.B. Kep)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY EDMUND HALLEY! Here is an image of the constellation Cetus, a fierce sea-monster, from a book by Edmund H...
08/11/2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY EDMUND HALLEY!

Here is an image of the constellation Cetus, a fierce sea-monster, from a book by Edmund Halley the astronomer, to commemorate his birthday on 8th November.

Halley is most widely known for the comet that is named after him. Yet amongst many other achievements, in 1676 Halley travelled to Saint Helena, an island off the coast of Africa, to catalogue the stars of the southern hemisphere. He published his observations in 'Catalogus Stellarum Australium' which includes this beautifully illustrated star map. Amongst the more familiar zodiac signs are a flying fish, toucan and chameleon constellations.

Halley died 15 years before the comet appeared again as he predicted. He never knew it would be named after him. Today there are craters on both the moon and Mars named Halley, as well as a mountain in Saint Helena, several streets names and even a pub in London.

Image from Catalogus Stellarum Australium by Edmund Halley published in 1679. Our ref. O.B. HAL

ANIMATING THE DEAD – REAL EXPERIMENTSThis 1803 illustration shows experiments in ‘animal electricity’ and the use ...
30/10/2013

ANIMATING THE DEAD – REAL EXPERIMENTS

This 1803 illustration shows experiments in ‘animal electricity’ and the use of a static electrical machine to animate dead flesh.

Luigi Galvani, an Italian physician, discovered that the muscles in the legs of dead frogs twitched when hit by a spark. He went on to experiment with other animals and his findings led to a new understanding of how electrical energy was carried by a liquid (ions) to activate muscle movement. Later research looked at the effects of electricity on the human body.

Galvani’s reports were read by a certain author – Mary Shelley – who went on to write ‘Frankenstein’ about a monster created from human corpses and brought to life.

Bioelectricity research today still studies the electrical patterns and signals of the nervous system.



Image from ‘An account of the late improvements in galvanism : with a series of curious and interesting experiments ...' by Giovanni Aldini (Q 538 ALDINI)

CORPSES, DISSECTIONS AND ADAM’S RIBIn honour of Halloween, here’s an illustration from one of most influential books...
21/10/2013

CORPSES, DISSECTIONS AND ADAM’S RIB

In honour of Halloween, here’s an illustration from one of most influential books on human anatomy – De humani corporis fabrica (On the fabric of the Human Body). It was written by Andreas Vesalius, a 16th century professor at Padua and court physician to Emperor Charles V.

Vesalius had some radical ideas. He discovered that Galen - the main source of anatomy since Roman times – had based his work on animal, not human dissections. Vesalius believed in hands-on direct observation and teaching and performed his own dissections in front of students, documenting his research. He uncovered many of Galen’s errors, including the correct number of bones in the mandible and sternum. Vesalius also disproved the Biblical belief that men had one rib less than women.

Vesalius wanted to write a book that could provide students with enough knowledge to perform their own surgeries. He paid for artists from Titian’s Venetian workshop to attend his dissections. The resulting detailed illustrations, complete with flayed skin hanging off and displaying corpses tied to a post are all too convincingly real and graphic.

We have several original editions of Vesalius’ works in our Wroughton Library. We are also pleased to announce the new acquisition of a facsimile of De humani corporis fabrica available for viewing in our London Library.

TEA IS INJURIOUS TO YOUR HEALTH! Our 1879 manual  'On Health and Occupation' advises readers that, 'The excessive use of...
18/09/2013

TEA IS INJURIOUS TO YOUR HEALTH!

Our 1879 manual 'On Health and Occupation' advises readers that, 'The excessive use of tea causes indigestion, giddiness, nervous derangement, and weakness, hysterical sensations… Tea, therefore, should be accepted as a luxury and nothing more ... the habit of taking tea at each meal is a habit that is most injurious.'

What do you think of this advice?

Our exhibition, 'Signs, Symbols and Secrets: an illustrated guide to alchemy' in the Science Museum will be closed from ...
11/09/2013

Our exhibition, 'Signs, Symbols and Secrets: an illustrated guide to alchemy' in the Science Museum will be closed from Friday 13 September to Friday 20 September.

The exhibition showcases rare and beautiful alchemical books and archives from our collections. Startling images of beasts and monsters, life and death are decoded to reveal secret chemical instructions and metaphysical beliefs.

You can search our library catalogue for alchemical works on our website or view further alchemical images at the the Science and Society Picture Library http://www.scienceandsociety.co.uk/

Have you ever thought of chaining a cat up in your garden?The front cover of this book shows precisely that. No, it’s ...
05/09/2013

Have you ever thought of chaining a cat up in your garden?

The front cover of this book shows precisely that. No, it’s not a cruel trick thought up by a cat-hater. The author of this Edwardian manual on ‘Animal Foes and Friends’ recommends tethering cats on a line to scare birds away from strawberry beds. The cats were supplied with saucers of milk and shelter from the weather. While we wouldn’t recommend this practice today, apparently the Rev. Ewen reported it a great success in the past!

Front cover from ‘The Balance of Nature’ by George Abbey

STILL IN A HOLIDAY MOOD?Travel to Weston-super-Mare in our 1920's guidebook. It’s Weston but not as we know it.The ‘...
28/08/2013

STILL IN A HOLIDAY MOOD?

Travel to Weston-super-Mare in our 1920's guidebook. It’s Weston but not as we know it.

The ‘fair white city by the Severn Sea’ is recommended to both the business man in need of a holiday and convalescents in search of health. Perhaps that is why the guidebook also lists the death rate (12.9 per thousand) and assures visitors that that the sanitation and drainage of all buildings are modern and under constant supervision. The author also takes care to inform us that the soil is very absorbent.

The ‘firm, springy golden sands’ of the beach played host to ‘thousands of children sent in ever-increasing numbers from big towns in the Midlands … as well as from India and the Colonies.’ Children could ride on beach donkeys and miniature pony carriages – or be left in the Day Nursery instead whilst their parents promenaded along the Marine Parades to listen to music at the Bandstand. However, the guidebook promises us that the Parades are never crowded no matter how large the numbers of visitors.

How have times changed?

‘Weston-super-Mare, as we know it to-day, is a modern, rapidly-growing town.’

Science Museum
11/07/2013

Science Museum

Principia Mathematica, one of the greatest scientific works ever written, was published today in 1687. Written by Sir Isaac Newton, Principia states Newton's laws of motion and universal gravitation, which apply to everything - from apples falling to the ground to planets orbiting the Sun http://ow.ly/mGCMb

11/07/2013

Check out the photographs of Robert Peston and Brian Clegg at Wroughton today recording an episode for BBC Radio 4's PM Programme (with Librarian John Underwood). This will be broadcast soon very soon...

BBC
11/07/2013

BBC

Visit from Lovelock patrons, June 2013
11/07/2013

Visit from Lovelock patrons, June 2013

‘Fancy Cycling’, Sword-fighting and SuffragettesHave you ever wondered if you could skip through a hoop on a bicycle...
10/07/2013

‘Fancy Cycling’, Sword-fighting and Suffragettes

Have you ever wondered if you could skip through a hoop on a bicycle or wield a sword on a bike? How about doing that whilst wearing full Edwardian dress?

‘Fancy Cycling: trick riding for amateurs’ by Isobel Marks illustrates a full range of activities, from the useful - opening parasols and drinking tea on a bike - to the unlikely, such as suspending a clown on a pole whilst cycling along. The author recommends the ‘exercise of perseverance and pluck’ and ‘ankling’ as the main factors of success.

The book was published in 1901, at the height of the bicycling craze and the photographs show both men and women, as well as children performing the tricks. Safety bicycles, like the ones used in the book, were first invented in the 1880s and offered women a new independence and personal freedom to travel about. Suffragettes called bicycles the ‘freedom machine’ and they came to symbolise the idea of the ‘New Woman’ – a woman who was able to exercise control over her own life.

‘Fancy Cycling’ has been selected from our Library collections for republication, over 100 years after it was first in print. It is an entertaining read, a source of inspiration for any trick cyclists out there and represents a time when this new technology contributed to social change and equality. Visitors to our Wroughton Library can view the original book. Modern reproductions of Fancy Cycling will be on sale soon in the Science Museum shop as well as generally available.


‘Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.’
Susan B Anthony, Women’s rights activist

On Tuesday 18th June the Science Museum paid host to a group of year 10 students from Commonweal School for the Performi...
18/06/2013

On Tuesday 18th June the Science Museum paid host to a group of year 10 students from Commonweal School for the Performing Arts in nearby Swindon. The group were here to film a short dvd about the planets and took over runway 22 in order to demonstrate the relative sizes and distance of the planets in the Solar System with the use of various creative props! Afterwards, they visited the Archive and Library to see some of the Museum's collection of scientific and astronomical works from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Alchemy Exhibition ExtendedWe are pleased to announce that our exhibition ‘Signs, Symbols, Secrets: an illustrated gui...
10/06/2013

Alchemy Exhibition Extended

We are pleased to announce that our exhibition ‘Signs, Symbols, Secrets: an illustrated guide to alchemy’ has proved so popular, it will now stay on display until next year.

The exhibition explores the alchemical world in the 16th - 18th centuries. This was a time when alchemy was studied by pioneers like Newton and Boyle and its ideas influenced early science and medical practice.

The rare books on display show how alchemists hid their secrets in coded pictures and illustrations. Symbolic images conceal alchemical ideas about chaos, enlightenment and metals growing deep within the earth.

In order to extend the exhibition, the Ripley scroll and manuscripts have been replaced with the highest quality facsimiles to preserve these unique materials from damage. However, visitors will still have the opportunity to see the Ripley scroll decoded and understand its directions for creating the philosophers’ stone.

‘Signs, Symbols, Secrets: an illustrated guide to alchemy’ is located on the second floor of the Science Museum.

Digital books are just as good for studying | BPS
06/06/2013
Digital books are just as good for studying | BPS

Digital books are just as good for studying | BPS

A student is likely to perform just as well using digital materials as he or she is using a print book, new research has found. According to the...

Science Museum
10/05/2013

Science Museum

The 1851 Great Exhibition: How unexpected profits gave birth to two Museums (including us) http://ow.ly/kHTtF

Building work on the Science Museum in November 1915. Credit: Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

09/05/2013
Archives and Cornish Studies Service

Congratulations to our colleagues at the Archives and Cornish Studies Service in Truro. They have reached stage 1 of the HLF application for a new archive centre in Redruth.

We're very pleased to announce (if you haven't heard it already!) that we have been successful in the stage 1 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a new, purpose-built archive centre in Redruth!
This unlocks over £300 000 for us to carry out development work for the project and on the site, which is the old Redruth Brewery site. Successful completion of this work (in around 18 months-2 years) will then release the rest of our £9.8 million grant!
We will be carrying out consultation work around the county and beyond, so watch this space for more information :-).

Address

Imperial College Road, South Kensington
London
SW7 2

General information

The Science Museum Library and Archives has two sites. The London library houses an excellent collections of histories of science and technology, including biographies of scientists and engineers. The Wroughton library houses original scientific, engineering and technology material from the last 500 years, as well as the Science Museum' archive collections.

Opening Hours

Monday 10:00 - 18:00
Tuesday 10:00 - 18:00
Wednesday 10:00 - 18:00
Thursday 10:00 - 18:00
Friday 10:00 - 18:00
Saturday 10:00 - 18:00
Sunday 10:00 - 18:00

Telephone

+44 20 7942 4242

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