Museum of the History of Science
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, the Old Ashmolean on Broad Street, Oxford. The Museum is a research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, offering free access to its permanent displays and a programme of special exhibitions, family-friendly events, talks and tours, along with taught sessions for schools. For those unable to come to Oxford online versions of exhibitions are available, alongside standalone online resources on the website: www.mhs.ox.ac.uk.
The entire collection of the Museum of the History of Science is a Designated Collection of national importance.
Tuesday to Sunday: 12:00 - 17:00
Closed on Monday.
- National Art Pass
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.
World Cultures, Science and Technology, Natural Sciences, Medicine, Maritime, Decorative and Applied Art, Archives
Key artists and exhibits
- Einstein blackboard
- H. G. J. Moseley
- Howard Florey
- Royal Astronomical Society
- Royal Microscopical Society
- Earl of Orrery
- spherical astrolabe
- Erasmus Habermel
- Lewis Evans
- Designated Collection
Women in Science
- 18 May — 30 December 2018 *on now
100 years ago, the first group of women won the right to vote in the UK. In this centenary year, there is widespread recognition of the political role women have played in society. But what about he vital contributions women have made to science? During 2018 we are celebrating a number of women connected with the University and the Museum’s collections.
Self Portrait Colour Photograph of and by Sarah Acland. She sits in the foreground on a chair and is holding her guitar. It has been taken outside.
Self Portrait Colour Photograph of Sarah Acland with her Portuguese Guitar, Early 20th Century
A small display of rarely seen archive material highlights the work of four women. Anna Atkins was one of the first people to illustrate a book with photography in 1843, and Sarah Angelina Acland was a pioneer of colour photography in the early 1900s. Ada Lovelace has been described as the world’s first computer programmer, and Elizabeth Hippisley was a chemist and geologist in the late 1700s.
Follow our Women and Science trail to discover more links to the collections and find out about Caroline Herschel, an astronomer, and Ada Lovelace, a forerunner
of computer coding.
Drop-in, ages 7+
Shout Out For Women Trail
A trail across the collections of Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums celebrating some of the women who are represented within our collections
and buildings including artists, scientists and curators.
Pick up a copy from our front desk.
- Any age
Cabinet of Curiosities
- 22 September 2018 2-4pm
What did museums look like 400 years ago? Learn about the strange and exciting objects these early 'cabinets of curiosity' contained. Choose objects from the museum to create your own model cabinet of curiosities.
Suitable for children aged 5-13.
- 30 — 31 August 2018 2-4pm
Use microscopes and lenses to observe tiny things, and use your drawings to make magnificent monoprints inspired by illustrations from Robert Hooke's famous book Micrographia published in 1665.
Drop-in, ages 7+
- Family friendly
- Especially for children
Women in Science: Tour
- 26 September 2018 12:30-1pm
Join us for a staff-led tour and find out how women have been involved in science for hundreds of years as astronomers, mathematicians, instrument makers, and merchants.
Ada Lovelace: the Making of a Computer Scientist
- 27 September 2018 6-7pm
Ada, Countess of Lovelace, is sometimes called the world’s first computer programmer and has become an icon for women in technology. But how did a young woman in the 19th century, without access to formal school or university education, acquire the knowledge and expertise to become a pioneer of computer science?
Professor Ursula Martin’s (University of Oxford) research interests span mathematics, computer science and the humanities. She recently wrote Ada Lovelace, the Making of a Computer Scientist with Christopher Hollings and Adrian Rice. It is the first popular account of the scientific and mathematical education of Ada Lovelace.
Museum of the History of Science