National Museums Scotland in cooperation with the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, University of Edinburgh


Thursday 13 November 2008 3pm

LECTURE: Professor Wilson’s Map of Technology

Geoff Swinney, National Museums Scotland & Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh

Location: Dunfermline Room, National Museums Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

Admission free

Please register with Maureen Kerr on 0131 247 4274 or [email protected]

ABSTRACT: Professor Wilson’s Map of Technology

A mysterious symbol on a gravestone in an Edinburgh cemetery provides the starting

point of this talk. The interpretation of the inscription led me on a trail which begins and

ends on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill. As the story unfolds a secret society emerges in which

love and wine play their roles. If one newspaper report is to be believed, a ghost too

makes an appearance. The symbol can be read as a map of technology. It was devised

by George Wilson who in 1855 was appointed to the newly created post of Professor of

Technology in the University of Edinburgh. At about the same time he was appointed as

the first Director of the Industrial Museum of Scotland (a forerunner of National Museums

Scotland). He occupied both posts until his death in 1859. I follow Wilson’s map to

consider his practices in both his university teaching and in his construction not only of a

museum of technology but also of a technology of museum. Wilson’s particular

understanding of technology continues to haunt us to this day, informing the current

redevelopment of the Museum, the Royal Museum Project.


a series of public lectures presenting leading international research and ideas in

the history, philosophy, politics and sociology of technology