London’s Science Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death with an exhibition reminding of his passion and support for science and engineering.
The exhibition, opening on Friday 23 January, will run for a year and will invite visitors to take a tour through the most significant scientific developments facilitated by Churchill’s support.
“Churchill really pushed and provoked, he felt that science can make the war shorter and provide less suffering,” said the Prime Minister’s great-grandson Randolph Churchill during the opening event.
“He gave opportunity to the scientific community. He was the first Prime Minister to have a scientific advisor always at hand.”
From naval radar, through the structure of myoglobin, to the atomic bomb and the UK’s first nuclear reactors, ‘Churchill’s scientists’ did not only help to turn the momentum in the Second World War towards the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany, but also contributed to many of the most significant scientific developments of the 20th century.
“We wanted to do two things in this exhibition,” said the exhibition’s lead curator Andrew Nahum. “We wanted to explore how science was recruited for the Second World War and then in the second half of the exhibition to look at the heritage of that science and to reflect on the way wartime science had given an enormous kick-start to post-war research.”
The exhibition features unique objects from the Science Museum’s collections together with original archive film footage, letters and photographs. Highlights include rarely seen relics of Britain’s war time atom bomb project ‘Tube Alloys’ and the high-speed camera built at Aldermaston to film the first microseconds of detonation of Britain’s home-grown atomic bomb, first tested in 1952.
“Science and engineering are involved in armaments on all levels and there were capable scientific establishments already working before the war,” said Nahum. “The exceptional feature of the Second World War was that a lot of independent academic scientists also recruited themselves for the wartime effort.”
On display are also some personal items of Winston Churchill himself including a cigar he was smoking when he was re-elected as UK Prime Minister in 1951.
The exhibition forms part of Churchill 2015, a unique programme of events that commemorate Churchill’s life, work and achievements in the 50th anniversary year of his death.
Watch our video from the exhibition's opening: