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.
Alchemical equipment

Dreams of Homunculi

  • 10 March — 7 June 2015 *on now

A video installation by artist Charles Ogilvie and curator Vid Simoniti in response to the ‘Alchemy and the Laboratory’ displays at the Museum. Alchemical recipes often contained rhyme, riddles and allegory. The ‘homunculus’, an artificially created miniature man, was one such allegorical figure, often used to fuel the debate about the possibility of creating life from inanimate matter.

The video’s dialogue is drawn from the writings of 17th century natural philosophers, while the voice of the homunculus is borrowed from Goethe’s Faust.


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.
Alchemical Laboratory

Alchemy and the Laboratory

  • 10 March — 7 June 2015 *on now

The Woodmansterne Art Conservation Fund has supported work on a remarkable 17th-century painting of an alchemical laboratory in the Museum’s collection. To celebrate the painting’s return it is displayed with other paintings, prints and manuscripts that illuminate the history of alchemy.


Send a Message SOS

  • 28 — 29 May 2015 1-4pm

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

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
Henry Moseley

From Semaphore Flags to Telephones

  • 30 May 2015 From 2:30pm

As part of the Dear Harry programme, Dr Elizabeth Bruton discusses communication systems and the vital nature of signalling at Gallipoli during World War One.

Henry Moseley

Moseley and Manchester Science

  • 2 June 2015 From 7pm

Henry Moseley moved from Oxford to Manchester in 1910, leaving behind a small scientific community tied to the traditions of college life. He joined the dynamic research team around Ernest Rutherford and quickly reached the forefront of contemporary physics. Dr Neil Todd (University of Manchester) illuminates Henry Moseley’s life and work in Manchester, and his rapid transformation from student to leading researcher.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Oxford in the Great War Bike Ride

  • 17 June 2015 From 6pm

Come hear about the history of Oxford in World War One, from explosive research to dashing pilots as well as the Oxford connections of Henry Moseley and more! Twelve-mile bicycle ride with some off -road sections and regular stops included. Meet outside the Museum on Broad Street. Led by Dear Harry co-curator Dr Elizabeth Bruton as part of Oxford Bike Week.

Gallipoli Film Programme - All the King's Men (1999)

  • 18 June 2015 From 7pm

A feature-length BBC television drama starring David Jason about the mystery of Sandringham Company of the Norfolk Regiment, which included men from the King's estate at Sandringham, which disappeared in action at Gallipoli in 1915.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Beam Me Up Harry!

  • 20 June 2015 2pm

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.

Beam me up Harry!

  • 20 June 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

  • 11-13
  • 7-10


Materials charge - £2.

Ancient and Modern

  • 27 June 2015 From 2:30pm

Our new modern collections curator Dr Sophie Waring picks out highlights from the distant and more recent past.

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.