Museum of the History of Science

MHS Basement Gallery
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The Museum of the History of Science houses an unrivalled collection of early scientific instruments in the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building. An active public museum, MHS offers an extensive programme of exhibitions, family-friendly events, public lectures, gallery tours and much more, along with teaching sessions for schools. For those unable to come to Oxford online versions of exhibitions are available, alongside standalone online resources on the website:

The entire collection of the Museum of the History of Science is a Designated Collection of national importance.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

(Until January 2015)

Tues-Fri 12.00-17.00
Sat 10.00 - 17.00
Sun 14.00-17.00

Closed: 24, 25, 26, 29 December and 1, 2 January 2015

NOTE: From 3 January 2015 the Museum will have new opening hours:

Tuesday-Sunday 12.00-17.00

Admission charges


Additional info

Our library is open to the public by appointment.

The entire collection of this museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

This museum occupies the original home of Elias Ashmole's museum, the oldest purpose-built museum in Britain. Its Designated collections are dominated by an exceptional collection of early mathematical and scientific instruments from antiquity to the twentieth century, including the largest collection of astrolabes in the world. A highlight of this group of objects is the earliest known Persian astrolabe, dating from the 10th century.

The early sundial collection comprises 750 examples, the earliest being a portable Roman dial from around 250AD. The microscope collections, an important collection of telescopes, and photographic equipment including items that belonged to Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and TE Lawrence, are further important facets of this remarkable museum.

Particular strengths include early mathematical instruments, optical instruments, and apparatus associated with chemistry, natural philosophy and medicine. There is also a unique reference library for the study of the history of scientific instruments that includes manuscripts, incunabula, prints, printed ephemera and early photographic material.

Collection details

World Cultures, Science and Technology, Natural Sciences, Medicine, Maritime, Decorative and Applied Art, Archives

Key artists and exhibits

  • Einstein blackboard
  • H. G. J. Moseley
  • penicillin
  • Howard Florey
  • Royal Astronomical Society
  • Royal Microscopical Society
  • Earl of Orrery
  • spherical astrolabe
  • Erasmus Habermel
  • Lewis Evans
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
For the Love of It

For the Love of It

  • 28 April — 2 August 2015 *on now

We often believe that science is reserved for trained experts working in technical environments. ‘Science’, however, can also exist outside of the laboratory. It, and its precursor ‘natural philosophy’, have been part of home, work and leisure for centuries.

This exhibition aims to connect the contributions of historic amateur scientists with your personal everyday scientific practices.

Curated by students from the University of Oxford’s MSc in History of Science, Technology and Medicine


Dear Harry main ident

‘Dear Harry…’- Henry Moseley: A Scientist Lost to War

  • 14 May — 18 October 2015 *on now

Henry ‘Harry’ Moseley was an exceptionally promising young English physicist in the years immediately before World War I. His work on the X-ray spectra of the elements provided a new foundation for the Periodic Table and contributed to the development of the nuclear model of the atom. Yet Moseley’s life and career were cut short when he was killed in 1915, aged 27, in action at Gallipoli, Turkey.

With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Museum of the History of Science’s centenary exhibition, ‘Dear Harry…’ – Henry Moseley: A Scientist Lost to War, marks Moseley’s great contribution to science and reveals the impact of his death on the international scientific community and its relationship with government and the armed forces.

‘Dear Harry…’ tells the moving and personal story of the life and legacy of Henry ‘Harry’ Moseley – son, scientist, and soldier.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

From Semaphore Flags to Telephones

  • 1 August 2015 From 2:30pm

Dr Elizabeth Bruton discusses
communication systems and
the vital nature of signalling at
Gallipoli during World War One.

Revisiting Gallipoli

  • 4 August 2015 From 7pm

The Museum director Dr Silke Ackermann shares personal
impressions from her recent pilgrimage to Gallipoli, ahead of a
screening of Gelibolu, the 2005 documentary by Turkish filmmaker
Tolga Örnek. Presenting viewpoints from both sides of the conflict,
the film is narrated by Jeremy Irons and Sam Neill.


Signals and Semaphores

  • 8 — 9 August 2015 12-4pm

Join staff from the Royal Signals Museum for an afternoon
of indoor and outdoor activities. Try your hand at WW1
battlefield communications including telegraphy, radio
communication, signals and semaphores.
Suitable for ages 6+.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Send a Message SOS

  • 15 August 2015 1-4pm

Experiment with Morse code and use
the museum’s telegraphic apparatus to
unravel the mystery message.
Suitable for all aged 7 upwards

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Harry’s Nobel Prize

  • 25 August 2015 From 7pm

Distinguished historian of science Professor John Heilbron
published the definitive “life and letters” biography of Henry
Moseley in 1974. Forty years on, he returns to Harry to consider
whether death prevented him from winning a Nobel Prize.


Lino-Block Printing

  • 27 — 28 August 2015 1-4pm

Try out an amazing printing press;
make a linocut design for your favourite
element and help us reinvent the
periodic table!
Suitable for age 7 upwards.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Beam Me Up Harry!

  • 12 September 2015 2-4pm

Discover the story of Harry Moseley
and make a simple spectroscope to
detect an element from a beam of light.
Children aged 9 upwards.
Materials charge £2.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13


Materials charge £2.

Big Draw: X-Ray Line

  • 19 September 2015 12-4pm

Join artists from Oxford Brookes University and others to
experiment with 3-D drawing inspired by Henry Moseley’s
world of X-ray vision and atomic structure. Part of the
national launch event for the 2015 Big Draw festival of
drawing. Open to all.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Cabinet of Curiosities

  • 26 September 2015 1-4pm

Find unusual objects and put together
your own cabinet of curiosities.
Suitable for children aged 5-11.

Suitable for

  • 5-6
  • 7-10

Remembering the Great War

  • 26 September 2015 1-4pm

A reminiscence day inviting the public
to share family memories, papers and
objects from World War One. For full
details, see the museum website.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Museum of the History of Science
Broad Street




01865 277280


01865 277288

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.