James Lovelock: childhood visits to the Science Museum

James Lovelock recalls childhood visits to London's Science Museum in the 1920s.

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And was there any popular science at that time on radio or in magazines, or encyclopaedias, that you …?

No, only the Science Museum: that played a huge part in my early days in the science training. And it all happened because my mother and father both wanted me to go into the arts, preferably to be an artist or something like that, because I did have a little bit of talent at drawing so they thought this could be developed. And so they took me to the Albert & Victoria Museum on Sundays and to the National Gallery and places like that. And I was not much moved, it didn’t seem … and then when we went to the V&A I saw the Science Museum. ‘Cause, see, we went on the tram from Brixton to Victoria where there was the Clock Tower in the middle of the road, it’s long gone. And got off the tram, that’s the terminus, and walked down to the tube station or the Underground Station it was, and it’s two stations along Victoria, Sloane Square, South Kensington. Got out at South Kensington and walked along a rather mephitic tunnel, that’s like an extended old fashioned public lavatory [laughs] that goes all the way to the museums. And they dived off up one thing, and I said, ‘Can’t we go ahead ‘cause it says the Science Museum, I’d like to see that?’ I wanted to know what it was. And they said, ‘Oh well you go on your own and we’ll meet later.’ So they had their afternoon at the V&A and were happy, and I had mine at the Science Museum. I loved it, it was terrific. At first I went for all the mechanical stuff in the ground floor, great big steam engines and all sorts of things, and you could press a button and it worked. That was terrific. But then I began to wonder what was on the floors above, ‘cause I don’t think it was that big in those days. And I came across one gallery that was about mining [laughs] and they had, you could, they were completely unthinking in those days, simulations of sticks of explosive and detonators and things like that. And as a potential young terrorist I absolutely lapped this up, this was fascinating stuff, if only I could get my hands on this what fun we’d have at Guy Fawkes. [Laughs] It was a cornucopia of delights, the Science Museum, and I wandered around all of it.

  • Interviewee James Lovelock
  • Duration 00:02:33
  • Copyright James Lovelock
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 4/7/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/15

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