London, The Science Museum, 30.9.05
Posted by Lisa Hill on December 29, 2005
After the Wallace, we went to the Science Museum. We had a brief look at the Wellcome Health display, which featured an iron lung – Tim was quite spooked by the idea of living in one of these, and so was I. There was also film of a girl having dialysis in the 1960s, and other medical advances too… but our hearts weren’t in it: we were too tired really.
What we did like was the 18th century scientific equipment gallery, part of George 111’s collection. There was a weird little gizmo – a cylinder on a plate – designed for identifying oneself as a member of a clan. (We would never have known this had it not been for a really nice museum guide, I wish I’d asked his name.) The plate was decorated with what looked just like swirls, but if we stood in just the right position, it reflected up onto the cylinder and showed a portrait of – George 111, of course. How cunning!
There were all sorts of measuring things and even though I didn’t understand what half of them did, I loved the museum’s homage to the Age of Curiosity and Love of Learning.
In the Flight gallery, we met two lovely old gents reminiscing about the war planes, and I impulsively asked one of them if he’d flown Spitfires. No, he hadn’t, but he was 73, he told me, so he was not far off the age where he might have done. He told me instead all about testing new planes post-war – no hi-tech stuff in those days – they just used half-a-dozen men to hold the plane down with ropes when they wanted to test out the balance!
The other man explained about the Messerschmitt plane on display, an evil thing developed towards the end of the war just as the German cities were being pounded by US planes by day and the RAF by night. To climb rapidly above the allied planes, the Messerschmitt had two separate tanks for its two types of fuel – a drop of which, if mixed together, was enough to ignite the whole plane. They didn’t have landing wheels, just a kind of ski, & the German pilots often baled out rather than run the risk of landing them and blowing themselves to bits. Horrible things.
After the Science Museum we were exhausted, went back to the hotel, tottered out later for some Japanese at nearby Koto’s in Holborn, and then went back to bed.