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Illuminating India at the Science Museum in London

Illuminating India at the Science Museum in London

Most people around the world are familiar with Indian art and culture but relatively few are aware of India’s long tradition in science. To redress the balance, the Science Museum in London is launching – Illuminating India – a special season of exhibitions and events dedicated to India’s international contribution to science.  At a function to announce the season, Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, said: “India’s history and culture are built on a rich tradition of scientific thought and innovation. The stories we will be showcasing through this vibrant season not only shaped India but had global significance.”

The Indian High Commissioner, Mr. Y.K. Sinha, was among more than 150 guests, many from the British Indian diaspora.  He told the gathering that science and medicine, especially Ayurveda, were things that India knew about long before Europe and he commended the Science Museum for taking this initiative to bring India’s influence to the attention of the world.

Running from 21 September 2017 to May 2018, Illuminating India will center on two exhibitions.   One exhibition is an unprecedented survey of photography in India from the emergence of the medium in the nineteenth century to the present day. The other will trace the history of scientific thought in India from the ancient past. It will look at the country’s expertise in observation, calculation and innovation, emphasizing the importance of science in India as a way of understanding the world and creating a better society.

The initial idea for the season was announced by the British Prime Minister Theresa May and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2016 during the British leader’s visit to India to open the UK-India Tech Summit. The Science Museum’s activities will mark the British Council’s UK/India 2017, a season celebrating the vibrant cultural history of the two countries.

Matt Hancock, the British Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: “India has a rich scientific history that dates back thousands of years, and continues to influence societies across the world. This exhibition will educate new audiences on the exciting story of Indian design and innovation from the ancient past to today. It is a fantastic addition to the UK-India Year of Culture program that will strengthen the special cultural partnership between our two countries and celebrate the shared ties across science, design and the arts.”

Among the exhibits will be rare objects borrowed from museums and institutions in India, the UK and other parts of the world. On display, will be parts of the historic Badshahi manuscript borrowed from the Bodleian Library in Oxford. This document, discovered in the late 19th century, is the oldest written record charting India’s tremendous contribution to mathematics which includes the defining concept of zero.

By taking a global perspective on the development of science and technology, the Science Museum aims to engage new audiences and strengthen international relationships between British and Indian scholars and cultural institutions. The museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement. As the most visited museum in the country by school groups, and offering free access, the Science Museum is ideally placed to spread the word about India’s lasting impact on science and world history.