I can guarantee that virtually no readers of this article will have heard of this museum, located somewhat out of the way in the village of Glaisdale, near Whitby, North Yorkshire. It’s not a museum in the conventional sense – you can’t simply turn up, pay your admission fee and wander round. Instead you have to book in advance (£20 if you turn up as an individual, or £10 a head for groups of 2-5). In return you get a two-hour lecture demonstration of aspects of radioactivity, electrical discharges and the work of William Crookes, and (briefly) Thomson’s work that led him to “discover” the electron. I claim these as chemical discoveries, but physics colleagues might disagree. We also see demonstrations of various electrical machines including those like Priestley might have used in his experiments. These were improved during the 19th century culminating in the famous Wimshurst Machine (1880) capable of generating sparks several inches in length.
The museum’s website is at http://www.museumofvictorianscience.co.uk and bookings should be made by telephone: 01947 897440. I went as one of a party of four like-minded scientists. The talk was tailor-made to our mainly chemical interests, and as they say, a good time was had by all!
Original article written by Alan Dronsfield and published in V. Quirke (ed), Royal Society of Chemistry Historical Group Newsletter, February 2010.