Wednesday, 8 April 2009

See both halves of Babbage's brain in one day

For the fair visitor who arrives in London before 26 April or staying on after for a city break, here's a few suggestions for places to visit. For the medical collector a trip to the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, not many instruments but lots of body parts in jars, as well as half of Charles Babbage's brain. The other half is on the first floor of the Science Museum near to his Difference engine.The Science Museum continues to dumb down, as more and more of its permanent collection finds its way into the Blyth Road Store, although their slide rules, calculators and drawing instruments are fairly impressive. The Wellcome Museum on Euston Road has two temporary exhibitions, both about mental illness: Bobby Baker's Diary Drawings, Mental Illness and me 1997-2008 and Madness and Modernity, Mental Illness and the Visual Arts in Vienna in 1900. Well worth a visit is the permanent exhibition "Medecine Man." The best collection of surgical instruments is still on the top floor of the Science Museum. The new Clocks and Watches Gallery at the British Museum has some very interesting scientific instruments, including "the most sophisticated astronomical compendium known to have survived.." Made by Johann Anton Linden it contains numerous types of gilded and silvered brass components, including sundials and calendrical tables.It also has a table of latitudes and a table for converting time in different systems of hours, as well as an astrolabe.

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