Oxford’s History of Science Museum celebrates its centenary as the UK’s first museum dedicated to the story of scientific discovery

The History of Science Museum in Oxford, the UK’s first museum to focus on the history of science and scientific discovery, celebrates its 100th birthday on the weekend of 2-3 March 2024. To mark the occasion a programme of in-person, hands-on events and activities, for all ages, will take place on Sunday 3 March at the museum on Broad Street and across the road at the Weston Library.

A brand-new display, About Time, curated by Dr Sumner Braund, will also be unveiled on 2 March to showcase how its founder Lewis Evans established the museum by donating his incredible, international scientific instrument collection to the University. 

In 1870, at the age of 17, he was given a sundial and developed a fascination with timekeeping. He spent the rest of his life travelling across Europe and beyond, collecting a wide range of scientific devices. Meanwhile, his friend Robert Gunther tirelessly campaigned about the importance of studying the history of science and scientific instruments and the need to find a permanent home to display Lewis’ extraordinary objects. 

In 1924 Evans gifted his collection to the University and Gunther became the first director of the History of Science Museum, based on Broad Street in what was the original site of the Ashmolean - the world’s first purpose-built museum dating from 1683. 

Today, the History of Science Museum houses a wide range of objects that tell us the time, see the invisible, heal the sick and stargaze at the night sky.

 Highlights include: 

  • a 17th century marble copy of Elizabeth I advisor John Dee’s Holy Table which interpreted ‘angelic conversations'. 
  • John Russell’s enormous pastel depiction of the moon over 30 years in the making, and completed in 1795.
  • Howard Florey’s original penicillin culture from 1941 which fundamentally changed medicine in transforming Alexander Fleming’s biological discovery into the basis of antibiotic production. 
  • timekeeping and travel devices that inspired Oxford author Philip Pullman to create Lyra’s alethiometer, which features in His Dark Materials

One of the most requested and revered objects on display is Einstein’s Blackboard, preserved from a 1931 lecture with an equation that connects the age, density, and size of the Universe. 

Dr Sumner Braund, John Fell Research Fellow at the History of Science Museum, said: “By the time Lewis donated his collection to the University in 1924, that curious teenager had become not just a successful businessman, but one of the most sought-after independent scholars in his field. I hope this exciting new physical and digital display will enable visitors to see through his eyes, from that first spark of interest in a sundial, to a life-long commitment to compiling the collection that created this unique museum.” 

Dr Silke Ackermann, Director of the History of Science Museum, said: “The History of Science Museum has, since 1924, been a wonderful place to explore how creative, curious people and their scientific achievements and ingenious solutions have, through the ages, addressed and answered the many questions we have about the world around us. At the heart of our collections lie powerful ideas which cross boundaries of faith, culture and time. In an increasingly divided world, these are histories that remind us what we all have ‘science’ in common.” 

“As we enjoy celebrating our centenary with a weekend of engaging events for all, we are also turning our attention to the future. Our ambition is to transform the museum into a more dynamic and welcoming space for generations to come so they can enjoy our collections, whether they walk through our door, or visit us online from wherever they are in the world.”

100th anniversary events & exhibition 

child practicing calligraphy

Sat 2 - Sun 3 March 2024
History of Science Museum & Weston Library, Oxford

From Saturday 2 March 2024: 
About Time 
History of Science Museum, Broad Street 
See through the eyes of museum founder, Lewis Evans, and discover the people, objects and stories that inspired him. Choose your own journey to follow in a stunning new exhibition. 

Sunday 3 March 2024: 
Curious Collectors Event 
Weston Library, Broad Street. 11am – 4pm 
A programme of events and experiences for adults and children all ages. You can follow a map to discover more about Lewis Evans’ travels, see an astrolabe in action, engrave an object, learn how to write in Arabic, plus activities for young children in ‘the Toddleian’. 
Drop in - no need to book. 


Find out more about the History of Science Museum