Article ID: CBB543984766

Presidential Address ‘Some years of cudgelling my brains about the nature and function of science museums’: Frank Sherwood Taylor and the public role of the history of science (2023)


Frank Sherwood Taylor was director of the Science Museum London for just over five years from October 1950. He was the only historian of science ever to have been director of this institution, which has always ridden a tightrope between advocacy of science and advocacy of its history, balancing differently at different points in its history. He was also president of the BSHS from 1951 to 1953. So what happened when a historian got his hands on the nation's pre-eminent public museum of science? To what extent did his historian's training and instincts affect his policies whilst director, and with what effect in the longer term? Taking this exceptional case, I suggest, enables us to consider how museum accounts of the past of science relate to historiographies of science otherwise available in the culture. In this discussion, drawing on new archival research, I consider the role of history within a key policy paper he wrote in 1951. I analyse and contextualize its main themes before considering, by way of conclusion, his legacy.

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Authors & Contributors
Allan, Nigel M. W. T.
Bergia, Silvio
Dittmann, Frank
Dragoni, Giorgio
Guagnini, Anna
Porter, Gaby
Icon: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology
Technology and Culture
Acta Historica Leopoldina
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
The Bridge: Journal of the National Academy of Engineering
British Journal for the History of Science
Published jointly by the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the Science and Industry Curators Group
Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group
University of Chicago Press
Springer Nature
Museums, Science
Museum exhibits
Nuclear weapons; atomic weapons
Babbage, Charles
Jackson, Chevalier
Taylor, Frank Sherwood
Winder, Marianne
Time Periods
21st century
20th century
20th century, late
Early modern
London (England)
Great Britain
United States
Science Museum, London
Boston Museum of Science
Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine
Science Museum
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia

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