Sir William Bragg, the eminent physicist, once stated, "The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them." The profundity and truthfulness of this statement seems nowhere more relevant than in the National Science Museum in London - one of the country's most loved historical institutions. As part of the National Museum of Science and Industry, the Science Museum is more than a tourist attraction for London's many visitors: it preserves some of the world's most impressive scientific artifacts, while constantly showcasing new talent and the latest in scientific innovations from across the globe.
The Science Museum first opened in 1857 from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts, as well as surplus items from the Great Exhibition of 1851 to promote the achievements of science and technology. Initially created as part of the South Kensington Museum, the museum went through several incarnations before being officially titled the Science Museum in 1885.
Today, the Science Museum holds over 300,000 exhibits. Its most famous items include Stevenson's Rocket, an early steam locomotive built by George Stevenson in 1829, James Watson's model of DNA and Charles Babbage's Difference engine, a special-purpose mechanical digital calculator. The Museum itself is made up of a series of permanent and temporary galleries, including 'Space', a historical gallery that tells the story of human space exploration, 'Flight', which contains a number of aeroplanes and helicopters, and 'Making the Modern World', a new gallery which houses some of the museums' most iconic collections.
Since December 2001, the museum has been free to all visitors, and is therefore a popular attraction for families in Britain. In fact, the Science Museum also organises "Science Night" - described as an "all-night extravaganza with a scientific twist". On these evenings, up to 380 children aged between 8 and 11 are allowed to spend an evening in the museum performing enjoyable, science-based activities before being allowed to spend the night among the exhibits. In the morning, the participating children can awake to breakfast in the museum, more scientific-based fun and an IMAX film - an altogether unforgettable scientific experience!
But the Science Museum doesn't simply provide a place for children to learn and play amongst some of the world's most important scientific developments: it also opens up forums for controversial scientific debate. The Dana Centre, a groundbreaking urban bar and café, was opened in 2003 in an annex to the Museum, and is currently the UK's only dedicated scientific discussion venue for adults.
As an integral part of the National Museum of Science and Industry (which includes York's National Railway Museum and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford), the Science Museum plays a crucial part in the scientific education of much of Britain's population.
If you're hoping to visit the Science Museum, you're sure to find a range of London hotels located in South Kensington through a variety of online travel sites. So choose to spend a day - or a night - in the Science Museum, not just because it provides fun for children and adults alike but because, as an institution of scientific progress and learning, it's virtually unparalleled.