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Mathematics: The Winton Gallery opens at the Science Museum

An inspirational new gallery, which strives to highlight the central role of mathematics in our daily lives, has been revealed at the London Science Museum.

Designed by Zaha Hadid Aarchitects, the gallery explores how mathematicians, their tools and idea have helped to build the modern world over the past four centuries. It features over 100 exhibition pieces from the Science Museum's collections, which tell the story of how mathematics underpins some of the most basic human concepts, from life and death, to war and peace.

“At its heart the gallery reveals a rich cultural story of human endeavour that has helped transform the world over the last four hundred years,” gallery curator Dr David Rooney said during the launch of the new exhibition.

“Mathematical practice underpins so many aspects of our lives and work and we hope that bringing together these remarkable stories, people and exhibits will inspire visitors to think about the role of mathematics in a new light.”

Upon walking into the Winton Gallery, visitors come face to face with the Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’ aeroplane, hanging centre stage. The 1929 model was designed as part of a competition to construct safe aircraft and is said to have helped shift public opinion about the safety of flying, thus moulding the future of the aviation industry.

The plane helps to encapsulate the gallery’s overarching theme, namely that mathematical practice has solved - and continues to solve - real-world problems.

Further inside the exhibition more mathematical wonders can be found, including an automatic mechanical calculator – the famous ‘difference engine’ – built from original designs by Charles Babbage; a 17th century Islamic astrolabe capable of mapping the night sky using ancient mathematical methods, and – perhaps somewhat more familiar – the National Lottery Machine, Guinevere. 

“Mathematics, whilst difficult for many, is incredibly useful,” said David Harding, principal funder of the gallery and CEO of Winton, musing that the gallery would help to bring relief to school children suffering through morning maths lessons by providing the possibility of a maths field trip. 

“To those with an aptitude for it, it is also beautiful,” he said. “I am delighted that this gallery will be both useful and beautiful. 

The gallery is the first public museum exhibition designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and it is the first to open in the UK following the sudden death of Dame Zaha Hadid in March 2016. Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group, said that he hoped the gallery would serve as a tribute to the late architect. 

The exhibition is free to visit and will open to the public on December 8 2016. 

The science museum has teamed up with Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers to produce a new book to accompany the gallery. ‘Mathematics: How It Shaped Our World’, written by curator David Rooney, expands on the themes and stories celebrated within the exhibition, allowing maths enthusiasts to take the gallery home. The book is available to buy from the Science Museum Shop for £25.

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