Museum of the History of Science

Free

The Museum of the History of Science has displays of scientific instruments dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.

The museum is located in the Old Ashmolean Building, which originally housed the Ashmolean Museum when it opened in 1683. It is the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building, although the museum that it was originally built for has since moved to larger premises.

What to see at the Museum of the History of Science

The museum has three galleries of exhibits on three floors. The ground floor has introductory exhibits and space for temporary exhibitions, the top floor has instruments relating to mathematics, navigation and astronomy including astrolabes, quadrants and spheres and the basement has chemistry, physics and medical instruments as well as Einstein’s blackboard.

The highlight of the museum is the blackboard that Albert Einstein used during his lectures while visiting the University of Oxford in May 1931.

Albert Einstein's blackboard at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, Oxfordshire (Photo: decltype [CC BY-SA 3.0])
Albert Einstein’s blackboard at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, Oxfordshire (Photo: decltype [CC BY-SA 3.0])
Other important exhibits include the author Lewis Carroll’s photographic kit, Elizabeth I’s astrolabe, George III’s silver microscope an equatorium (one of only two surviving examples) and the world’s only example of a spherical astrolabe.

Visiting the Museum of the History of Science

The Museum of the History of Science is on Broad Street next door to the Sheldonian Theatre.

Entry to the museum is free of charge.

Guided tours on Thursdays at 2.30pm and 3.15pm and on Saturdays at 12.30pm and 1.15pm.

There is also a free audio guide online that you can stream to your phone. The English-language audio guide gives you an extensive insight into the museum’s exhibits and audio guides in Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian and Spanish cover the museum’s highlights.

Only the basement level of the museum’s exhibition spaces is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs.

Amenities
  • Gift shop

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