23 January 2015 – 1 March 2016
Marking the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death, a display of photographs, film footage and artefacts reveals the remarkable scientific breakthroughs that took place under his direction as prime minister.
This exhibition explores the achievements of the scientists and inventors who came to prominence during Churchill’s period in power. It specifically addresses the advancement of discovery during the Second World War – for example the pioneering new methods that enabled chemists to mass-produce penicillin and antibiotics and the radar invented by Robert Watson-Watt that helped Britain win the Battle of Britain.
Lesser-known stories include that of nutritionist Elsie Widdowson and her scientific partner Robert McCance, who self-tested the austere war diet. Their work – The Composition of Foods – remains the standard work on nutrition today.
Churchill's commitment to deepening science education continued past the end of the war. This is highlighted by a further section focusing on discoveries in molecular genetics, radio astronomy, nuclear power, nerve and brain function and robotics post-1945.
Among them are Bernard Lovell’s ambitions to build the world’s largest steerable radio telescope and John Kendrew’s ground-breaking research into myoglobin – the first protein to be analysed structurally in three dimensions.
Highlights include a number of personal items belonging to Churchill, such as the cigar he was smoking when he heard he had been re-elected as Prime Minister in 1951 and proofs from his six volume series The Second World War, marked up and corrected in his own hand.