How Churchill Used Science To Win World War II

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 105 months ago
How Churchill Used Science To Win World War II ★★★☆☆ 3
Title/Inv/Barcode.:Science Museum Photo StudioDate: 11/07/05Colour Profile: Adobe RGB (1998)Gamma Setting: 2.2Please note: This image is not currently fully processed.
Churchill inspects a spitfire; radar was an integral part of Britain's defences and used to direct planes toward enemy aircraft. Photo by Philip Insley.
Model of myoglobin ("forest of rods") constructed in 1960 during work on the structure of the molecule to a resolution of  2 Angstroms: it comprises steel rods with meccano clips in wooden base-boards with Kendrew-type skeletal models showing the peptide chain
This forest of rods holds up one of the first molecular models of myoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein in muscle tissue. Photo: Science Museum.
Molecular model of Penicillin by Dorothy Hodgkin, c.1945.
This model of Penicillin was made by Dorothy Hodgkin. Penicillin saved many lives during the war and after with Churchill instructing that large quantities of it be manufactured. Photo: Science Museum.
Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, c 1957.
The building of the Jodrell Bank telescope was an expensive project, but it was capable of detecting Soviet satellites.
C4 Rotating Mirror High Speed Camera bolted to rectangular wheeled steel frame - wheels missing, and detachable handle, by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (A.W.R.E),  Aldermaston, Hampshire, 1950-1959.
This high speed camera caught the first microseconds of Britain's first atomic bomb test. After the war the programme was started from scratch without American assistance. Photo: Science Museum.
Used Ration Book, and two partly used Ration Book Supplements, issued by the Ministry of Food during the second World War, to allow the limited purchasing of Meat, Bacon, Cooking Fats, Butter & Margarine and Sugar, all issued from Hornsey, North London, England, on July 7th 1941. Graduated black background.
Used ration books. Rationing was dependent on the amount of supplies coming into the country. Statistical analysis was used to determine how much each person was given. Photo: Science Museum.

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

Think Winston Churchill and the mind goes straight to his powerful wartime speeches and leadership — science and technology may not be at the forefront of most people's thoughts. But Churchill was a massive proponent of this area both during the second world war and for civilian use afterwards. The latest display at Science Museum is all about Churchill's use of science with a focus on the scientists who assisted and carried out his vision.

The first half of the exhibition illustrates programs that took place in the war, including the use of weapons to defend against u-boats, the strategic bombing of railways to disrupt enemy supply lines and the use of statistical analysis to determine how long resources would last.

This is all fascinating information but the lack of attention-grabbing artefacts does result in an informative but rather dry first half, the one exception being a fantastically-contoured bust of Churchill by Jacob Epstein.

The second half of the exhibition is based around Churchill's second stint as prime minister and includes his annotated draft of his book on the Second World War and even the victory cigar he smoked to celebrate his re-election.

There are better artefacts available for this part of the display, including footage of Britain's testing of a nuclear bomb and a robot that was used to inspect the earliest civilian nuclear reactors. The use of wartime technology during peacetime is probably a narrative less familiar to visitors and it is very interesting.

This is an informative display covering an aspect of Churchill we weren't too familiar with, and gets stronger as the exhibition progresses.

Churchill's Scientists is on at Science Museum until 1 March 2016. Admission is free.

Also still on at the Science Museum is the history of photography in Drawn by Light and the horrors of 60's and 70's social housing in Make Life Worth Living. While at the Science Museum, make sure you also check out the new Information Age gallery.

In more Churchill related news, the 50th anniversary of his death will be marked with a river procession.

Last Updated 28 January 2015