Past events at the Whipple Museum

Below are details and images from recent past events at or involving the Whipple Museum.

From 20th October to 23rd November, the University of Cambridge Museums presented a five week programme of exhibitions, events and activity with the Festival of Ideas and other partners and organistions across the City. Curating Cambridge was about celebrating everything that makes Cambridge what it is - the people, the places, the tales and the triumphs. The below events, forming part of Curating Cambridge took place at the Whipple Museum:

Museum Tour: Science and Industry in Cambridge

Monday November 3rd, 10th and 17th 13:00-13:30

Curator-led tours of the Whipple Museum's collection, where visitors heard fascinating stories from the history of science in Cambridge. Spanning two-hundred years of city industry and university research, there's much more to Cambridge science than Isaac Newton and DNA.

Explore and Discover: Saturday Opening

Saturday 1st November 10:30-16:30

A special Saturday opening where visitors explored the celestial and terrestrial through globes, astrolabes, telescopes and orreries, finding out about the ground breaking work of scientists through their instruments, tools, models and machines

There was also a talk entitled 'Tech, Tools, and Toys of Science before 1800'. Science didn't exist as we know it until the 1800s. Before then, 'scientific instruments' could be cutting-edge tech but also everyday tools or fashionable toys. CRASSH Fellow Dr. Alexi Baker relived the early modern world by exploring its technology!

The Incredible World of Dr. Auzoux (with the Museum of Zoology)

Monday 27th October 14:00-16:00

Friday 31st October 11:00-13:00

The Whipple Museum and Museum of Zoology investigated Dr. Auzoux's spectacular papier-mâché anatomical models of humans, plants and animals.

ChYpPS SummerDaze 2014

20th August 2014 14:00-17:00

Big Wednesday, Cherry Hinton Hall, CB1 8DW

21st August 2014 14:00-16:00

Community Thursday, Thorp Way Recreation Ground, CB5 8UN

The Whipple went on the road with hands-on activities to participate in two of Cambridge City's Council's SummerDaze events organized as part of their Children and Young People's Participation Service.

Find out more about these and other SummerDaze events on the City Council's website. []

Can you believe your eyes?

18th August 2014 10:30-13:00

Visitors explored the magical world of optical illusions through amazing optical instruments at the Whipple Museum, making their own spyglasses and thaumatropes to take home.


11th August 2014 10:30-13:00

As the summer warms up, the mini-beasts get a wriggling! The Museum of Zoology visited the Whipple Museum to zoom in on the miniature worlds of insects, worms and other invertebrates featured in the collection.

Ask the Experts: Researchers' Night at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science

Friday 16th May 18:00 to 20:00

For Museums at Night 2014 [], visitors joined us to find out more about the Whipple Museum's collection by talking to young researchers who have worked with the Museum's fascinating array of historic scientific instruments and models.

The below events formed part of the Cambridge Science Festival. []

Science Saturday: Nature's patterns at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science

Saturday 15th March 10am to 4pm

Visitors were encouraged to discover nature's patterns in shells, corals, plants and more with hands-on activities and makes. They could get up close to skeletons inside and out from the Museum of Zoology and explore the Whipple Museum of the History of Science's amazing collection of historic scientific instruments and teaching models. There were drop in family activities and guided tours of the Whipple's collection.

What is matter?

Thursday 13th March: 1:00pm - 2.00pm

We all know that matter is made of atoms, which are made of particles. But what are particles, according to modern physics? Hard and tiny lumps; or some sort of cloud made up, in some way, out of a field? Philosopher of physics Jeremy Butterfield talked about what modern physicists think particles are.

Poincaré and Einstein on geometry: how do they look today?

Wednesday 12 March: 4:00pm - 5:00pm

What is the real geometry of space? Just measure it with a ruler and protractor, you might say. But what if a physical force distorts all your instruments? Worse, what if the answer depends on what your ruler is made of? Must there be a single true geometry? Poincaré, the French mathematical genius, thought about these things more than a century ago.

Einstein's creation of General Relativity changed how people think about these questions. But physics didn't stop with Einstein. Does Einstein's theory have any serious rival today? If so, does Poincaré's work on geometry help us to understand it? Attendees found out what the latest particle physics work on gravitation suggests about Poincaré, Einstein and geometry.

Psychophysics of vision

Tuesday 11 March: 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Most humans see in three primary colours, but why? Could there be people who see in more than three? What can we say about what that would be like? Does a digital camera work like an eye? It has recently been proposed that European robins are able to "see" the Earth's magnetic field - what does this mean, and how does it work? The philosopher of physics Dr Adam Caulton will explore the contribution that physics and psychophysics has made in providing answers to these questions.

Twilight at the Museums: Natural World Torch-lit Trail

Wednesday 19th February 4.30pm to 8.30pm

Visitors explored the natural world after dark at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, discovering the many weird and wonderful models of plants, bugs, and animals in the museum's fascinating collection.

Mapping the Past: A Panel Discussion

Friday 1st November 2013

at The Polar Museum

Brought to you by the Whipple Museum and the Polar Museum: a panel discussion of the history and art of maps and globes.

Quantum Frontiers

Thursday 31st October, 1pm - 2pm

What happens to an atom if you keep splitting it? And how can philosophy have anything to do with the answer? This talk introduced the revolutionary ideas of quantum physics that describe the behaviour of atoms and their parts, and the parts of those parts, and so on. Present understanding of the very smallest parts depends on quantum ideas - and even philosophy.

Mapping the Past : A Trail

Wednesday 23rd October - Sunday 3rd November

at The Polar Museum and the Whipple Museum

A joint trail around the Polar Museum, the Whipple Museum and between the two in this map making adventure!

Open Cambridge Saturday Opening

Saturday 14th September, 10am - 4pm

The Whipple Museum opened for Open Cambridge. To find out more about events that occured during Open Cambridge, click here. []

Summer at the Museums

Wednesday 21st August, 12.30 - 4.30pm

This was another opportunity to make your own sundial at the Whipple Museum. Find out more about Summer at the Museums here [].

Summer Saturday!

Saturday 20th July, 10am - 4pm

The Whipple Museum was open for Summer at the Museums, with a special Make Your Own Sundial event. Before smartphones and watches, people used the sun to tell the time. Visitor could find out how at the Whipple.

King Arthur's Table
What is this object? (Wh.3271)

King Arthur's Table: the evenful life of a museum piece

Tuesday 11 June at 13.15

Seb Falk, Connecting with Collections intern at the Whipple Museum, discussed a mysterious object from the museum's collection that became know as 'King Arthur's Table'. The talk took place at the Whipple Museum, in the New Gallery.

'The changing perceptions of the nature of light' - Opus Anglicanum

Friday, March 22 at 7:00pm

Opus Anglicanum used music and a sequence of texts chosen by John Allen, Emeritus Professor of Physics, St Andrews University, to chart the changing perceptions of the nature of light through history.

John Allen has chosen Zarathustra, Parmenides, Democritus, Alhazen, Newton, Young and Einstein to be performed by Opus Anglicanum (5 men singing unaccompanied and a narrator) also featured 1st performances of new works by Dobrinka Tabakova to a text by Einstein; and by Gordon Crosse to a text by Hafiz.

With Judith Bingham 'Breguswith's Dream' from 'Necklace of Light'; John Dunstable 'Veni Sancte Spiritus'; Josquin 'In principio erat verbum'; Tallis 'O Nata Lux de Lumine'; and other works.

Space, Time and Philosophy

Monday, March 11 at 1:00pm

The ideas of space and time are pretty obvious in our everyday life. But sometimes the simplest things are the most subtle! Indeed, once we start asking questions about the nature of space and time, we find ourselves facing many difficulties and we realise that we don't have obvious answers: What is space? What is time? Do they have the same properties? Could we imagine anything outside of space and time? We will explain how physics and philosophy can shed some light on these questions.

Generating Particles

Thursday, March 21 at 1:00pm

The world according to quantum field theory This talk describes the vision of the Cambridge physicist Paul Dirac, who articulated the idea that a particle is an excitation of an all-pervading field, laying the ground not only for modern physics, but also a new understanding of geometry.

The Clerks performing in the Main Gallery
The Clerks again performing in the Main Gallery

Music at the Whipple - The Clerks

Thursday, March 14 at 6:00pm

The Clerks performed and explored the science of 'auditory streaming' in the majestic surroundings of the Whipple Museum's Main Gallery.

The award-winning vocal ensemble The Clerks returned to the Whipple Museum of the History of Science following their previous performance of 'Roger go to yellow three'. Their work explored the science of 'auditory streaming', the function of hearing which enables us to pick out a single conversation in a crowded room. Attendees became subjects of research by filling out questionnaires based on what they were able to hear.

Objects of Science - Science Saturday

Saturday, March 16, 2013, 10:00am until 4:00pm

The Whipple Museum was open on Science Saturday with short tours throughout the day.

Tour and object handling sessions at the Whipple Museum

Tuesday, March 19 at 2:00pm and 3:00pm; Friday, March 22 at 3:00pm

Tours of the galleries followed by a hands-on session using objects from the Whipple's collection. A rare opportunity to actually handle instruments and museum artefacts.

Twilight at the Museums

Wednesday, February 13 at 16.30-19.30

Using our Solar System trail, visitors experienced the darkness of space in the Whipple Museum, and found out how humans have investigated and made models of planets, moons and other objects.

Don Paterson poetry reading

Friday, 1st February at 18.00

As part of the Thresholds [] project , the Whipple Museum of the History of Science hosted a poetry reading by Don Paterson.

Big Draw on tour 2012

Friday 2 November 2012, 2:00PM - 4:00PM

These artist-led sessions explored the theme of 'dreams and nightmares' through the diverse perspectives and imaginative worlds of the University of Cambridge Museums' (UCM) collections at different sites across Cambridge.

Mr Tompkins' nightmares

Thursday 1 November 2012, 2:00PM - 3:00PM

Brian Pitts held a public lecture entitled 'Mr Tompkin's nightmares' as part of the Festival of Ideas.

Érem Verde Coins and Medals exibition

Monday 8 October 2012 until Friday 2 November 2012

To celebrate the 25 years of the twining of Cambridge and Szeged, the New Gallery was host to an exhibition by Hungary's only mint for decorative and commemorative medals and coins.

Saturday Opening

Saturday 27 October 2012

Regular tours were held throughout the day as the Whipple opened for this special Saturday opening.

Music from the ether: dreams of the theremin

Friday 26 October, 6:00PM - 7:00PM

Charlie Draper performed an evening of music played on the rare and unusual theremin; the only instrument to be controlled without touch.

Poincaré's dream

Thursday 25 October, 2:00PM - 3:00PM

What is the real geometry of space? Surely we can just go and measure it? Attendees found out that Henri Poincaré, the French mathematical genius, had a dream that he could resolve the issue.

Saturday 8th September 2012, from 10:00am until 4:00pm.

Open Cambridge - Saturday opening at the Whipple

A special Saturday opening, with regular tours.

Open Cambridge - Tour and handling sessions at the Whipple Museum

Friday 7th September 2012. 2:00pm until 4:00pm.

Visitors explored the highlights of the Whipple's vast number of scientific instruments and took part in a handling session. There was a tour of the galleries followed by a hands-on session using objects from the collection.

Summer at the Museums - Make your own Pan Pipes

Monday 20th August 2012, between 12.30pm and 4.30pm.

Summer at the Museums - Cabinet of Curiosity

Monday 13th August 2012, between 12.30pm and 4.30pm.

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's 'Cabinet of Curiosity' is visited the Whipple Museum.

Music at the Whipple

Friday 23 March 6:00PM - 7:00PM

On the 23rd March, the Main Gallery was packed with visitors enjoying the rare and enchanting sound of the Theremin. A concert performed by Lydia Kavina, Charlie Draper and Adam Gray, with narration by Orla Polten.

Space, time and philosophy - a talk

Tuesday 27 March, 2:00pm - 3:00pm

The ideas of space and time are pretty obvious in our everyday life, but once we start asking questions about the nature of space and time, we find ourselves facing difficulties and realise we don't have obvious answers.

The objects of science: Saturday opening

On Saturday 17 March the Whipple was open for Science Saturday.

The rules of form: sonnets and slide rules

Wednesday 14 March 6:00PM - 7:00PM

Kelley Swain, poet in residence, chaired a discussion on the constraints of creative form in literature and poetry, from Oulipo to the Gothic. This was inspired by the Whipple Museum's Hutchinson collection of mathematical instruments.

Two excellent guest speakers, Dr Joe Crawford of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, and the talented Badaude of Oxford, will speak about their contributions to the Whipple's first art-book (forthcoming). Other contributors to the book, 'The Rules of Form: Sonnets & Slide Rules,' include poet Lesley Saunders, PhD student Caitlin Wylie, and artist & designer Cassie Herschel-Shorland, as well as Joe Crawford and Badaude.

Twilight at the Museums 2012

On 15th February visitors voyaged through the Whipple, discovering the secrets of scientific exploration. The Whipple museum holds countless objects used by travellers, from the sextants that measure latitude to the artificial horizons that guided sailors through the dark. Visitors explored these objects and more by completing the torch-lit trail. Their travels continued through the activities brought to the Whipple by the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology as they discovered more about explorers of the past and the people they met.

The Clerks performing in the Main Gallery
The Clerks performing in the Main Gallery

Roger go to yellow three

Friday October 28th 2011

'Roger go to yellow three' was an original vocal and dramatic work by Christopher Fox and Edward Wickham performed by the award-winning vocal ensemble The Clerks. The work explored the science of 'auditory streaming', the function of hearing which enables us to pick out a single conversation in a crowded room. Over 60 people attended, who themselves became subjects of research by filling out questionnaires based on what they were able to hear.

Visit []for more information.

Thursday October 27th 2011 at the Whipple Museum

In this series of creative writing workshops participants worked with the stories of scientists who changed our ideas of the possible. They were encouraged to create their own poetry and fiction, inspired by items from the Whipple collection.

Presented by the Whipple Museum and Anglia Ruskin University.

Access all archives: sights and sounds

Monday October 24th 2011

Live performances and sound installations provided the background for a special late night opening of the museum galleries. This event was run in association with the Museum of Zoology, The Polar Museum, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and The Fitzwilliam Museum.

The Main Gallery of the Whipple was transformed into the belly of an imaginary machine. A sonorous, cyclic automaton nestled amongst years of scientific detritus: an installation inspired by the modern replica of Richard of Wallingford's 11th century astronomical clock. The sound piece was itself a replica of sorts; intricate mechanical processes were gradually unhinged and reassembled. This was a piece composed specifically for the Whipple by members of the University of Cambridge's Music Faculty.

A philosophical quantum revolution

Friday October 21st 2011

What happens to an atom if you keep splitting it? How can philosophy have anything to do with the answer? Audience members joined Dr Jeremy Butterfield and Dr Nazim Boatta for a discussion of these issues. This event was so over-subscribed that the talk was repeated on the 26th October.

The sixth Lord Rayleigh
The sixth Lord Rayleigh addresses the attendees of the October 19th event

Rayleigh exhibition event

On Wednesay October 19th 2011, the Whipple celebrated The Acoustical Experiments of Lord Rayleigh, a temporary exhibition of apparatus The museum will open at 5pm for light refreshments and speeches followed by a talk by Professor E. A. Davis at 6pm.

Open Cambridge: 9th and 10th September 2011

On Friday 9th September there was Music at the Whipple between 5.30pm and 7.00pm. Visitors explored our collections during our late opening with live music in the background.

Saturday opening at the Whipple: on 10th September the museum was open between 10am and 4pm.

Monday 1st and Monday 8th August 2011- Cabinet of Curiosity

On the above dates the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's 'Cabinet of Curiosity' visited the Whipple Museum of the History of Science.

Science on Saturday

On Saturday 19th March, the Museum was open for the Cambridge Science Festival 2011. Visitors explored the Whipple Museum's collection and investigated how some of our objects work using the handling trolleys.

Find out more about Science Festival []

The BSHS Strolling Players
The BSHS Strolling Players

The Tables Turned

On 16th March 2011 at 5pm the Main Gallery was host to 'The Tables Turned', a role-play drama about science and Victorian spiritualism.

In Victorian Britain, thousands of people were turning tables. Participants at séances across the country heard long-departed voices, levitated musical instruments, and channelled strange languages, breaching supposed barriers between the natural and the supernatural, soul and matter, the known and the unknown, the quick and the dead. Well-known members of the scientific community, including co-discoverer of natural selection Alfred Russel Wallace and chemist William Crookes, were among them: active enthusiasts of spiritualism, and regular séance-goers. Others, such as Michael Faraday, were more sceptical, and denounced this popular pastime in the periodical press. Many fell somewhere in between on a spectrum of beliefs. But how were people supposed to judge what was going on, and who could be relied on for expert guidance? Was science able to determine whether the séance was real?

In 'The Tables Turned', the British Society for the History of Science's 'Strolling Players' visited the world of Victorian spiritualism. Travelling back in time to the early 1860s, they took their audience to a meeting of a scientific society to question processes of observation, fact-making, objectivity and reasoning, as well as the relationship between expert men of science and the wider public. This highly engaging event used film, role-play, and debate to bring key issues from the history and philosophy of science to life.

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