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How the Whipple Museum opened a student's eyes to the history behind today's science

How the Whipple Museum opened a student's eyes to the history behind today's science

Visiting the Whipple Museum was fascinating and it was really enjoyable to journey outside of school and experience the rich academic world that Cambridge has to offer. I had never really thought much about the history of science, as I have always perceived science in development, always looking into the future and discovering the next new technology - but in fact there is a colossal and global history that allowed us to get where we are today. 

One thing that I remember clearly from the trip, was that the tour guide said all scientific models are wrong. At first I thought, "how can every scientific model be wrong?", but as she explained I started to understand - science is dynamic and continually changing, new things are discovered which prove old theories wrong, furthermore many scientific models are made wrong  due to supply of resources, limitations of space and to make them easier to comprehend or more visually aesthetic.

"How can every scientific model be wrong?"

I found all the historic objects so interesting and really enjoyed exploring the museum's collection. My favourite part of the trip was when we went to the globe room, full of random Victorian objects and of course so many globes! The guide focused our attention on a black and white image of Victorian scientists: all white and all men wearing wigs and elaborate clothes. It made me realise how the history of science has been dominated by the men and completely Westernised. For example, the majority of anatomical models were of men as it was seen as rude to cut up a woman's corpse and the bodies used were those of executed criminals, which tended to be men. This led to a stark inequality in medical advances, as research and treatment was only developed for half of the population - these consequences still exist today.

Another point that I had not realised was the Westernisation of the constellations. Many different nationalities had their own names for the patterns in the stars, but these were ignored, and Western scientists named them after Ancient Greek and Roman gods and animals. This is reflected throughout the entirety of the history of science, where things had been discovered already but these people go unrecognised, whereas the Westerners so many years later claim them as their own, naming ‘their discoveries’ after themselves. It makes me question: how many discoveries really were authentic and how many discoverers are out there, unnamed and unappreciated? 

As written by Eloise S., for her STEMM Youth Award submission.