The Outreach and Education Committee’s web essay competition, announced in May 2006, challenged contributors to produce a 500-word piece, aimed at a general audience, in answer to the question: Why should anyone need to know about the history of science?

The competition generated interest in the UK and across the world, drawing more entries than the Society’s other essay competitions, from a far wider constituency. Watching the email announcements get posted from list to list and carried across the world was exciting.

We received 54 applications for entry numbers and 32 entries were submitted by the closing date of 31st August. 17 came from within the UK, seven from other European countries (including Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Ukraine), 11 came from the USA, two from Canada, two from Australia and three from India. We also had entries from Brazil, the Philippines, and Singapore, with eight entrants declining to supply a postal address.

Every essay was read by two members of the Outreach and Education Committee, and the best eight went through to a second round to be read by all six judges. We were unanimous in our decisions about which three made the final round. The winning essay was submitted by Michal Meyer from Gainsville, Florida. The runner up was Daniel Mitchell from Oxford. The judges wish also to give special commendation to Mark Hurn from Cambridge, for a very amusing entry. To read the winning entry, go to