Approximately 20,000 objects illustrating the history of science occupy the floors of the Old Ashmolean Building in Oxford, the oldest purpose built museum building in the world.
The famous building was constructed in 1683 to house the extraordinary collection of Elias Ashmole, an English politician, antiquary, and one of the founding Fellows of the Royal Society. In 1924 the building became dedicated specifically to the history of science. (The rest of Ashmole’s collection can be seen in the larger, nearby Ashmolean Museum.)
The museum contains a wealth of astronomical and navigational instruments from globes to astrolabes, sundials, and quadrants, as well as microscopes, telescopes, instruments of measurement, and a very beautiful orrery. The library and archive contain reference materials including manuscripts, incunabula, prints, printed ephemera and early photographic material related to the history of science. At any time, only about a fifth of the museum’s vast collections are on display.
In a downstairs room packed with beakers and test tubes and magnificent microscopes, a modest blackboard hangs on the wall as a memento of the visit of Albert Einstein to the university in 1931. The board was never erased after his lecture.