A cathedral to man's ingenuity. A museum was founded in 1857 under Bennet Woodcroft from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts and surplus items from the Great Exhibition as part of the South Kensington Museum, together with what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum. It included a collection of machinery which became the Museum of Patents in 1858, and the Patent Office Museum in 1863. This collection contained many of the most famous exhibits of what is now the Science Museum. In 1883, the contents of the Patent Office Museum were transferred to the South Kensington Museum. In 1885, the Science Collections were renamed the Science Museum and in 1893 a separate director was appointed. The Art Collections were renamed the Art Museum, which eventually became the Victoria and Albert Museum. When Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the new building for the Art Museum, she stipulated that the museum be renamed after herself and her late husband. This was initially applied to the whole museum, but when that new building finally opened ten years later, the title was confined to the Art Collections and the Science Collections had to be divorced from it. On 26 June 1909 the Science Museum, as an independent entity, came into existence. The Science Museum's present quarters, designed by Sir Richard Allison, were opened to the public in stages over the period 1919–28. This building was known as the East Block, construction of which began in 1913 and temporarily halted by World War I. As the name suggests it was intended to be the first building of a much larger project, which was never realized. However, the Museum buildings were expanded over the following years; a pioneering Children's Gallery with interactive exhibits opened in 1931, the Centre Block was completed in 1961-3, the infill of the East Block and the construction of the Lower & Upper Wellcome Galleries in 1980, and the construction of the Wellcome Wing in 2000 result in the Museum now extending to Queensgate.
The Science Museum now holds a collection of over 300,000 items, including such famous items as Stephenson's Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), the first jet engine, a reconstruction of Francis Crick and James Watson's model of DNA, some of the earliest remaining steam engines, a working example of Charles Babbage's Difference engine, the first prototype of the 10,000-year Clock of the Long Now, and documentation of the first typewriter. It also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits. A recent addition is the IMAX 3D Cinema showing science and nature documentaries, most of them in 3-D, and the Wellcome Wing which focuses on digital technology. The museum houses some of the many objects collected by Henry Wellcome around a medical theme. The fourth floor exhibit is called "Glimpses of Medical History", with reconstructions and dioramas of the history of practised medicine. The fifth floor gallery is called "Science and the Art of Medicine", with exhibits of medical instruments and practices from ancient days and from many countries. The collection is strong in clinical medicine, biosciences and public health. Around 450,000 young people visit the Science Museum on educational trips or benefit from its outreach programmes each year, more than any other UK museum. The Science Museum also organises "Science Night", "all night extravaganza with a scientific twist". Up to 380 children aged between 8 and 11, accompanied by adults, are invited to spend an evening performing fun "science based" activities and then spend the night sleeping in the museum galleries amongst the exhibits. In the morning, they're woken to breakfast and more science, watching an IMAX film before the end of the event. On the evening of the last Wednesday of every month (except December) the museum organises an adults only evening with up to 30 events, from lectures to silent discos. Previous Lates have seen conversations with the actress activist Lily Cole  and Biorevolutions with the Francis Crick Institute which attracted around 7000 people, mostly under the age of 35.
In addition to the permanent displays there are temporary exhibitions. Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius is the internationally-acclaimed, must-see exhibition of 2016. It's your chance to investigate both the facts and the misconceptions that surround this great genius of the Renaissance: Was he the period's only designer of machines? Did all of his designs get fully constructed? Find out the answers to these questions and many others at a unique exhibition of remarkable prescience, rare beauty and astonishing creativity. Highlights of the exhibition include: 40 historical models of Leonardo’s inventions including flying machines, diving equipment and weapons; Large-scale reproductions of Leonardo’s famous drawings and sketches; 13 Interactive games and 10 multimedia installations; Modern examples of bio-inspired robotics, aviation and materials technology. You know Leonardo the artist from paintings including The Last Supper and Mona Lisa – now discover Leonardo the brilliant, insatiably curious engineer. The Museum is fully wheelchair accessible. A limited number of adult and child wheelchairs are available and may either be booked in advance by telephoning 0870 870 4868 or borrowed on the day by asking a member of staff at the Information Desk. All lifts in the Museum are wheelchair accessible and have audio announcements. The majority of Museum lifts have Braille labelling on the buttons. Wheelchair-accessible toilets are available in the Basement and on the Ground, First, Second and Third floors. They are also available on all floors of the Wellcome Wing. Induction loops are fitted at the Ticket Desk in the Energy Hall on the Ground floor, at the IMAX 3D Theatre entrance in the Wellcome Wing, in the Theatre and at the Information Desk. The IMAX 3D Theatre is equipped with an infrared system. Headsets are available on request. Braille labels have been installed in the Who Am I? gallery to accompany the touch objects. Audio descriptions of a selection of objects are available to listen to on the Audio Description page. You can also Join one of the Volunteer Tour Guides on a journey through the history of information and communications technology in the Information Age gallery on the 2nd floor. This tour is recommended for blind and partially sighted adults.
Location : Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD
Transport: South Kensington (District Line, Circle Line, Piccadilly Line). London Buses routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C1 stop outside South Kensington Underground Station, routes 9, 10, 52, 452 and 70 stop outside the Royal Albert Hall on Kensington Gore.
Opening Times: Daily 10:00 to 18.00
Tickets : Free for the Museum
Imax Theatre: Adult £11.00. Children / Concessions £10.00
Discovery Motion: Adult £6.00. Children / Concessions £5.00
Red Arrows 3D: Adult £6.00. Children / Concessions £5.00
Typhoon Force: Adult £5.00. Children / Concessions £4.00
Leonardo da Vinci: Adult £10.00. Children / Concessions £8.00
Fly 360°: £12.00 per capsule (2 people)
Tel: 0870 870 4868