Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cavendish Laboratory Museum

by Jillian Pingel

Main Entrance
So for those who are unaware the Cavendish Laboratory is the department of physics at the University of Physics. At the time the Cavendish Laboratory was created, in the year 1874, there was a need for a place where the study of physics and experimental sciences could take place. However, The University of Cambridge was unable to provide sufficient funds for the necessities of Natural Sciences. Luckily, thanks to William Cavendish and his generous donation to the university, today stands the lab which is home to 29 Nobel Laureates and many other amazing accomplishments. 

Upon arrival to the Cavendish Laboratory I was unsure of what to expect. I had no idea of the history of the lab so I was surprised to find out about all the accomplishments and discoveries made there. Of everything I saw at the lab's museum the two things that interested me the most were the replica of the gas discharge tube with which J.J. Thomson discovered the electron and model of DNA made by Francis Watson and James Crick.

Replica of Thomson's gas discharge tube
In 1897 the electron was discovered by the third Cavendish professor of experimental physics, J.J. Thomson. Thomson was particularly interested in Cathode rays and the discharge of electricity through gases. In his experiment that led to the discovery of the electron Thomson used a discharge tube (left) and a pair of metal plates. One of the plates inside the tube was negatively charged and the other was positively charged and attracted cathode rays. When he passed the cathode rays through the electric field within the tube the rays moved toward the positively charged plate and he therefore concluded that the rays must be negatively charged. Other scientists had already established that the rays must be negatively charged. Thomson measured the charge to mass ratio of these particles and discovered that they have ~1800 times less mass than hydrogen, and therefore they must be a sub-atomic particle (now known as the electron).
Model of DNA made by Watson and Crick

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is a long chain of nucleotides held together by phosphate. The discovery of the structure of DNA is credited to James Watson and Francis Crick. At the time another pair of scientists were working at King's College in London, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin. They were working with x-ray diffraction to study DNA. When Watson and Crick got their hands on their X-ray data they were able to deduce the correct structure. In 1953, Watson and Crick published their discovery that DNA must be in the shape of a double helix, with each helix held together by weak hydrogen bonds. Since these hydrogen bonds can easily break and reform, this suggested a means by which the genetic material can be duplicated. The structure of DNA impacted the world of molecular biology and to this day helps researchers make advances in science.

Going to the Cavendish lab and museum really opened up my eyes to the importance of science and everything it allows us to do. It's definitely a place to stop if you find the history of how things were discovered interesting.    

The Royal Observatory Greenwich

by Taimane Tuiasosopo

This particular Sunday was nice because we had a morning to sleep in.  Our day started like any other day, except for the fact that we had a quiz! (*GASP* SOMETHING ACADEMIC?! WHAT?! NO!)  However, we were all able to make it through our quiz on Longitude by Dava Sobel (SIDE NOTE: I recommend this book to everyone! [WARNING: slight obsession with clocks and astronomy are possible side effects.]) After that we hopped on a bus to Greenwich.  When we got there we enjoyed the scenery and happily hiked up the miniature mountain to finally set our eyes on the observatory itself.
The front of the Royal Observatory Greenwich
The Royal Observatory Greenwich was founded in 1675 by order of King Charles II.  It was originally established so that scientists and other academics could have a place to work on the mystery of finding longitude.  Traveling by sea at this time was quite dangerous as sailors had no way to determine their longitude at sea.  This requires knowledge of both the time at your current location (solar noon) and also the time back at home (which proved problematic.)  Early astronomers studied the sky for years making detailed astronomical measurements of the moon among the stars in hopes of discovering a kind of" celestial clock."  Eventually the problem was solved thanks to a mechanical clock made by carpenter and clockmaker John Harrison (more on him later.)  Today the observatory is the site of the Prime Meridian, this means that it sits at 0º longitude.  Visitors, like us, come from all over the world to stand on both sides of the Prime Meridian and claim they have stood in 2 hemispheres at once.

FUN FACTS (aka remember these for your next run on Jeopardy):
  1. The first Astronomer Royal was John Flamsteed.
  2. The current is Martin Rees.
  3. The Royal Observatory was designed by Christopher Wren who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral.
  4. While at his post as Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed (see #1) had some of his astronomical data stolen by Isaac Newton (and published without his consent!) 
  5. Pacific Standard Time (PST) is 8 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT.)

Time ball at the observatory which originally communicated the correct time to sailors on the Thames, and still drops every day at 1pm
Sculpture with the Prime Meridian running through it at 0º longitude

The highlight of my visit was seeing John Harrison's clocks.  With the help of Professor Lingwood, I found them tucked soundly in a room within a maritime exhibit.  As mentioned earlier, our class read Longitude and learned about Harrison's quest to make the perfect sea clock to aid sailors in their oceanic travels.  He toiled for years and years with the aid of grants to come up with a clock worthy of the £20,000 prize (more about the Longitude Act here.) He made 5 clocks during this time, he called them H-1 through H-5, four of which we got to see in person!  His fourth was the one that ultimately tipped the scales on discovering accurate longitude calculations.  After reading about all of Harrison's work it was almost unreal to see them in person.  Without further ado here are the pictures of them...  
John Harrison's first model titled H-1, weighing in at 75 pounds!
H-2 inscribed "Made for His Majesty George The IInd, By order of a Committee Held on 30th of June 1737."
H-3: which Harrison spent almost 2 decades working on.
The back of the prized H-4 inscribed "John Harrison & Son AD 1759."

After the excitement of witnessing the clocks first-hand the class headed to the Planetarium.  We concluded our trip by watching a show here entitled "Dark Universe." We learned about dark matter, our universe, and the possibility of discovering farther places in the galaxy as science continues to advance. The show was relaxing and informative.  It was the perfect end to an exciting day in Greenwich.  I'll leave you all with our view while leaving the observatory.
View from the top of the hill at the Royal Observatory.


Tai :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Royal Institution and Faraday Museum

by Daniel Farrell

Our class visited the Royal Institution January 21 to explore its contributions to the scientific community. The Royal Institution (or RI) was founded in 1799 by the leading British scientists of the time as a place to put into effect new ideas as well as teach science to the rest of the country. George Finch was elected the first president of the institution, and promptly used his influence with the crown to secure a Royal Charter in 1800, giving legitimacy to the organization. The Royal Institution soon became famous for its lectures on Chemistry. As it's reputation grew, great minds from all over began to flock to London to see the lectures and for an opportunity to use the materials and labs that were built at their headquarters. In the early years, much of the research involved isolation of previously discovered elements and discovery of new ones. Within 20 years of its founding members had isolated potassium, sodium, and calcium  and discovered many new elements including magnesium, boron, chlorine, and iodine. Surprisingly it wasn't till 1862 that research formally became a part of the mission of the RI. Through the rest of its history the RI has become famous for its Christmas Lectures as well as new discoveries that have changed the face of all branches of science like the existence of the electron, decay of atoms, nerve impulses, and uses of mature stem cells. 

Outside view of Royal Institution
Despite its regal reputation, the building itself seemed small and much less impressive than I expected. Upon entering we immediately went to the basement where the Faraday Museum is set up. Despite being only one hallway long, the museum is home to a plethora of world-changing experiments done by Faraday, for whom the museum is named, as well as many other influential members of the Royal Institution. After the class was able to tour the entirety of the museum, we all talked about the exhibits which interested us most. For me the most interesting parts of the museum were the experiments created by Faraday having to do with advancements in electromagnetism. 
Portrait of Faraday

Faraday is one of the most famous members of the RI.  His many discoveries helped helped the RI to emerge as a dominant player in the research community. He first came to the RI in 1813 as a research assistant, where promptly he and Davy were credited with inventing the first mining safety lamp that prevents explosions of flammable gases in the mines. In 1821 Faraday is credited, among other amazing discoveries, with building the first electromagnetic motor and generator, liquifying the first gas (chlorine), discovering Benzene, interpreting electromagnetism as a field, and inventing photography before his death in 1867. As Faraday showed his aptitude for research, he stepped up through the ranks of the RI. Faraday was first appointed Superintendent of the House in 1821, Director of the Laboratory in 1825, and finally in 1833 he was appointed as the first Fullerian Professor of Chemistry (A special research position created just for him that continues today). In 1973 in honor of his contributions to the RI, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Faraday Museum, which displays examples of many of his experiments, as well as experiments conducted by other members of the RI.
Main Hallway of Faraday Museum

Coiled wire around a ring which was used to first observe electromagnetic induction. The magenta coloring is due to the lighting in the display case. 

First Electric Generator created by Faraday

First ever sample of Benzene

While Faraday was one of the most well known researchers at RI, the society was home to countless world changing scientists such as:

John Tyndall, who explained why the sky is blue due to the low wavelength of blue light, causing it to be scattered more easily. Below is the tube which he used to demonstrate this effect.
John Tyndall's Blue Sky Apparatus

One of the most Important discoveries to come from the Royal Institution was the X-ray spectrometer, created by William Bragg. He used his spectrometer to observe the cell structure of crystals. Today this technique  has been improved over the years and used to discover molecular and atomic structures as well as make discoveries about electronic energy levels.

William Bragg's X-ray Spectrometer 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Charles Darwin's House at Down

by Taylor Gida

Charles Darwin's House at Down
Charles Darwin is one of the most renowned  scientists to have ever lived. In most of today's classrooms, Darwin's Theory of Evolution is as important to the biological sciences as Isaac Newton's discoveries were to the understanding of Physics.While most of his field work was conducted on the HMS Beagle, it is at his home that Darwin did his most influential work.

The house was first and foremost home to Darwin, his wife and their many children. But it is also the birthplace of his great work The Origin of Species that gave the world its first in-depth explanation about the mechanisms for evolution by natural selection. Understanding the potential consequences of his ideas, he wanted an unassailable set of evidence for his theory. In the large garden area behind the house he performed an extensive number of experiments using plants and insects from around the world  Over the course of 20 years he worked on his manuscript, making the necessary intellectual leaps to make sense of his data.

When we first pulled up to the house at Down I saw that the house itself was a quaint two-story home that, although large to my eyes, was probably cozy if not small for a family boasting 10 children. As I began the self-guided tour of upper floor of the house, I was pleasantly surprised to see almost half of the floor was dedicated to the home life of the Darwin family as well as a number of interactive games and videos. This combination worked together create a fun and comfortable atmosphere that I'm sure kept the younger visitors (and many of the older ones as well) of this museum thoroughly entertained.

Darwin Family Tree
Having studied Darwin and his work in several different classes, the rooms summarizing his research provided very little new information for me personally. Looking at his notebooks and a few of his preserved specimens was fascinating (especially the finches--his most famous example), but what really caught my attention was how much this site emphasized the impact Darwin's home life had on his work, most notably the death of his daughter Anne, which not only crushed his faith in Christianity, but also cemented his belief that life was a competition for survival rather than a strive towards harmony. The rooms that showed that he was a loving and supportive father to his children made him much more human to me than ever before, which is probably why I loved them so much.

Garden Path

It was also remarkable to be able to walk in Charles Darwin's footsteps during the audio tour of the garden. Once I broke through the barrier of unclear walking directions and was able to match locations to the stories I was listening to, it was easy to call up the images of Darwin puttering around the greenhouse or taking a stroll along the sandwalk with his children. While there are very few of Darwin's original specimens still preserved, and none of them in that greenhouse, I found that there was an atmosphere of scientific study infused within the space. Whether it was from the preserved nature of the house and its museum of Darwinian artefacts or the simple, natural state of the garden I can't say.

Inside the Greenhouse
I enjoyed the greenhouse the best--not only for the relief from the chill outside, but also for the rich variety of plant life that couldn't be found anywhere else in the garden. It certainly made me feel closer to the observations Darwin carried out there on climbing plants and carnivorous flowers.

Overall I found this site to be enjoyable, informative, and interactive. It is definitely a unique type of museum that is perfect for those people who prefer active, hands-on styles of learning. But it is also great for those who--like me--enjoy getting a glimpse at the man behind the science.

Taylor Gida

Friday, January 23, 2015

Museum of London

by Anne Dinh

The Museum of London focuses on the history of London from its early beginnings to modern day. The exhibit begins with first settlements and continues on to Roman Britain, Medieval London, Renaissance, and into the 20th century. My two favorite parts of the museum were the early landscape of Britain as well as the Roman Britain period.

A view of the museum from its entrance. 

The landmass of Britain, located on the peninsula of Europe, was shaped by climate change and ice sheets. During the Anglian Ice Age 480,000 years ago, Britain was covered by ice. The weight of ice sheets changed the landscape and carved new valleys while ice dams changed the route of the Thames river. Before our trip the class discussed one possible explanation for the intermittent ice ages: Milankovitch cycles. This theory reasons that three components of Earth's orbital movement influence the climate. These components are eccentricity (elliptical shape of Earth's orbit), axial tilt (the angle between Earth's rotational axis and orbital axis), and precession (the orientation of the rotational axis). These aspects of the earth's orbit change in cycles on the order of 100,000 years, and cause changes in the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth.

Temperature variations over the last 500,000 years

By 8500 BC, a warming climate allowed the ice to melt and gave rise to forests. The landscape was then heavily shaped by highly adaptable human communities. As the land became habitable, people settled in the land and coped with rising water levels by building wooden trackways across the marshy valley floor. Between 1500 and 700 BC, the areas near the Thames Valley were used for raising livestock and agriculture.

The museum continues the history of London with the rule of Romans over Britain. Around 50 AD, the Roman Empire established Londinium, which is modern day London. By 100 AD, this city grew into one of the largest cities in the Western Roman Empire with a population of 60,000. Roman rule influenced the layout of the city and the way of life. In 150 AD, the civic center was established with the forum and basilica as the focal point. The offices and shops nearby were built with stone rather than timber or mud-brick, and water-pipes were laid down. I really enjoyed the Londinium exhibit because it gave me a sense of the millions of incremental changes in the structure of the city and the way of life. 

This is a model of London's civic center in 150 AD with shops, offices, and houses around the central courtyard. 

This museum allowed us to appreciate London's immense history beyond the beautiful ancient architecture. Thus far, we've seen stunning cathedrals and grand towers. A peek back to the beginning of this country and its development through the centuries only serves to strengthen my love of this city. This understanding of early London also allows us to grasp the impact of scientific discoveries and how our perspective of the world around us has gradually changed.

British Library

by Anisha Nigam

        The British Library was founded in 1753 and is home to many historical texts of the Western Civilization that can be found no where else in the world. The British Library consists of close to 200 million research texts and is a place where many people go to do in depth research. This was my second visit to the British Library and I am glad I was able to do a blog entry on this particular place. At first, I wanted to look at the Beatles work which mainly consisted of lyrics, many of which had originally been written on a napkin. I also quickly skimmed through the religion section which included Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.  With that said, I moved my focus towards the sciences, which included Galileo Galilei, Anne Mclaren, and Willaim Henry Fox Talbot.
        I came across The Starry Messenger by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), which we had read parts of in seminar classes and our current class that we are taking. His text was filled with his astronomical observations that he made with one of the first telescopes. We also have discussed many of the observations and discoveries of Galileo in our History of Science class. The text is also referred to as Sidereal Messenger that was published in New Latin in March 1610. With his telescope, he discovered that the moon had rough surfaces (contradicting the classical model, which was the belief that all astronomical surfaces were smooth) and discovered hundreds of stars that were never able to be seen from the naked eye.

Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger) by Galileo Galilei
        Another interesting text I came across was research done by an English woman named Anne Mclaren (1927-2007) which involved embryo transfers in mice (gene activity of mice is similar to those of humans), which made mice a good way to test for what would work on humans. She was made an officer of the Royal Society after her work in developmental biology lead to human in vitro fertilization.
        Another person who caught my attention was William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). Talbot came up with the first way of using a process known as calotype which were photographic process. His invention of the calotype process has made current day photography available and he was more noted as contributing towards the artistic field.

This is a picture of the first printing press of Johannes Gutenberg, the books in the back were a separate part of the library

Cambridge Walking Tour

by Leslie Montano

Once upon a time a group of students took a 10 hour flight to London and started their adventures a week ago. A week ago! Time flies when you're having fun! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015... It starts off like any other day: Get up, get ready, eat breakfast & sign a paper to get money (per diem), but today was different. Today, we arrived at King's Cross Station and took a 50min train ride to CAMBRIDGE. It was like a Harry Potter scene! Except half the people were still asleep...Regardless, we finally made it to Cambridge where we got a lovely tour about the University and its many accomplishments. Pretty cool eh?

First of all this University is nothing but beauty. But besides the breathtaking sites, some pretty amazing people attended and/or performed research there. Because this course focuses on the history of Science I thought it would interesting to mention some of those people who have made a major impact. Some of those people included: Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, J. J Thompson, Francis Crick, James Watson, Sir Isaac Newton, and James Clerk Maxwell. (collage below in no particular order)

Clockwise from top left: Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, J. J Thompson, Francis Crick and James Watson, James Clerk Maxwell, and Sir Isaac Newton
Quick Facts:
Charles Darwin 
  • He is most famous for his work on natural selection
  • His 1859 book ‘On the Origin of Species’, detailed much of his research on natural selection, it contained a large amount of evidence to back up his ideas and became a landmark work in the field of evolutionary biology
Ernest Rutherford
  • Rutherford, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden carried out the Geiger-Marsden experiment, an attempt to examine the structure of the atom. The surprising results of this experiment demonstrated the existence of the atomic nucleus and became an integral part of the Rutherford model of the atom.
J. J Thompson
  • Sir Joseph John Thomson, more commonly known as J. J. Thomson, was an English physicist who stormed the world of nuclear physics with his 1897 discovery of the electron, as well as isotopes. 
  • He is also credited with the invention of the mass spectrometer.
Francis Crick & James Watson
  • Discovered the structure of DNA and postulated a mechanism for the duplication of genetic material.
Sir Isaac Newton
  • In 1687, Newton published Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, what is widely regarded to be one of the important books in the history of science. In it he describes universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, concepts that remained at the forefront of science for centuries after.
James Clerk Maxwell
  • He produced a set of equations, known as ‘Maxwell’s Equations’ that explain the properties of magnetic and electric fields and help show that light is an electromagnetic wave.

Besides all those great people, we got to see some of the amazing monuments, memorials, and buildings Cambridge has offer.
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    Now that you all know how important these people are I'll tell you what we saw. First we got to see Emmanuel College and its dining hall. No one is allowed to walk on the grass here unless you were a fellow so needless to say that the grass around here was pretty nice. Students of all majors live here and attend lessons. They even attend a smaller meeting of about 2 students with one fellow to follow up on their studies. From there we were able to see the dining hall where, they too, eat like Harry Potter on long tables. 

Dining Hall at Emmanuel College
      The next quick site was a nice small pond where ducks could be seen. Emmanuel College is known for their ducks so it was nice to see them roaming around the college. 
     We then left Emmanuel College and visited other campus sites including the zoology building, the buildings of environmental sciences and the old location of the Cavendish Lab. As you can see, science radiated throughout the walls.
      As we continued our walk we were able to visit the famous pub where Watson and Crick liked to hang around. They even labeled the booth where they sat! At this pub, Watson and Crick first announced their discovery of the structure of DNA. Because of that, the pub even has a beer called Eagle DNA and a dessert called the Double Helix. 

The Eagle pub, where Crick and Watson first announced their ideas. 
      So we continued through our tour and stopped to look at a famous clock called the Corpus Clock. This clock has a scary creature that lies on top called a Chronophage, literally meaning "time eater." The Chronophage moves along the top of the clock while it eats the seconds reminding us that time is eaten and we can never get that second back. 

Corpus Clock
     As time was being eaten our tour continued. From there we crossed the street towards King's College and it's chapel. The king had loads of money and decided to build this amazing chapel. I was able to walk inside and see this amazing chapel with all of it's stained glass windows. The glass was even removed at one point because of the fear it might be damaged in the war and was later put back into the chapel. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside, but believe me, the chapel inside we gorgeous! We even got to hear the organist practice!

Entrance to King's College
       And last but not least, we reached  the famous Newton Apple Tree. Of course this wasn't the actual apple tree where Newton claims to have discovered the theory of universal gravitation, but it was genetically tested to prove that it was in fact a descendant from the original tree. Close enough right?
A descendant of Newton's Apple Tree
   This is where our tour ends. We only got to see a portion of the University, but it all was great to see. Hopefully one day I can see the rest of it.

From here we departed to our next adventure at the Cavendish Lab!

Long Live the Queen!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

British Museum

by Olivia Silva
"Science is made by people, not people by science"
− John Gribbin, The Scientists
It is important to note the various advancements in technology, medicine, and science, however none of these crucial and influential achievements would have occurred without the men and women dedicating numerous hours of their lives for the betterment of society. All of these people began their life's journey somewhere, as did their ancestors, taking us all the way back to early civilizations from all over the world. Therefore, an understanding of history is crucial to understand the progression of science.

One of our first stops in London was the famous British Museum. The British Museum was established in the year 1759, dedicated to showcase human history and culture. The size of the building is overwhelmingly large and contains exhibits that date back to Mesopotamia in 6000-1500 BC! Anyone can easily spend all day in the British Museum and still not be able to see the entirety of it, which is why at different times certain certified volunteers take groups of eager people around a particular room for about thirty minutes on a themed tour to explain in detail certain key pieces on display. Out of all the various exhibits found in the museum (such as Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa) my two favorite exhibits hands down were Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece.

Outside of British Museum
The nine large rooms dedicated solely to Ancient Egypt not only had giant statues, mummified cats, and actual hieroglyphs on ancient tile but also the actual Rosetta Stone! For those who do not know, the Rosetta Stone is a giant slab of granodiorite (similar to granite) with a written decree from King Ptolemy V in three different languages: Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Ancient Greece. Since this tablet contains the same decree written three times, historians were able to use this stone as a "key" to translate Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time. Sure, learning about the Rosetta Stone in elementary school was interesting, but actually seeing this monumental piece of history only a few feet in-front of me is a surreal experience I hope everyone can enjoy in their lifetime.

Ancient Egyptian Mummy and sarcophagus 

Egyptian Pharaoh statue 

The Rosetta Stone
Seeing the Rosetta Stone was unreal, but the Ancient Greek sculptures utterly took my breath away. It amazes me how realistic each piece of art looked. The details in the sculptures are so intricate that it appeared as if actual cloth was draped over the statue of a human being (which actually means the sculpture subject is a woman, as men were always depicted naked). Luckily for us, marble was used as the sculpting medium; it is extremely durable and was able to endure the potential damage of decades of abandonment. The Greek classical period saw a revolution in sculpting associated by historians with the popular culture surrounding the introduction of democracy. These sculptures were brilliantly carved (using a hammer and chisel) to capture realistic yet overly exaggerated and idealized features desirable to the Greeks. The sculptures were used for tombs, offerings to the gods, and the temples and were eventually discovered and put on display for the pleasure of the public.

Ancient Greek female marble statue

Ancient Greek female marble statue 
The content of the British Museum was so extensive that if I talked about every exhibit I found interesting you would be reading this post for hours on end. The history of human society is extremely relevant even now because not only does it include the history of our own ancestors but it sets the stage for the scientific discoveries that paved the way for a functional modern society. I can honestly say that I have already learned so much about the history of science, humankind, and history on this trip and I cannot wait to see what London has in store for me and my classmates on our second half of our adventure!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Westminster Abbey

by Catherine Kuo

I know we’ve only been in London for a grand total of two days, but I’m falling more and more in love with this city each day. The people are so gracious, transportation is easy, and there seems to be something around every corner that is so historical and valuable to the British culture. Each day we are lucky enough to have a packed schedule that gives us the opportunity to appreciate London in its full glory.

With that being said, we kicked off today with a visit to the iconic Westminster Abbey. Upon approaching Westminster Abbey, I couldn’t help but think of one thing: the royal wedding. I had a series of thoughts along the lines of “Yes, this is where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were first introduced to the world as newlyweds. No, you can’t hold your own wedding here. And yes, you are literally walking in the footsteps of the Kate Middleton.” Little did I know that this historical site was so much more than that- the royal wedding was just the beginning. Led by our kind and very knowledgeable tour guide, Barry, we spent most of our morning learning and understanding what makes this famous abbey a “must see” to many of those who visit London. 

Main entrance 

A view of the western facade
 After establishing his royal palace near the river Thames in the 1040s, King Edward decided to enlarge a nearby monastery in honor of St. Peter the Apostle.  This church was known as “West Minster” and was consecrated on December 28, 1065. Two centuries later, King Henry III rebuilt the abbey in French gothic style and declared it to be a place of worship as well as a place for the coronations and burials of monarchs. It has hosted every coronation since 1066, sixteen royal weddings, and many other celebratory events. Unfortunately I was not able to take pictures inside, but as seen in the pictures above, the architecture of Westminster Abbey has the ability to leave people in a state of awe. Everything is so magnificent and intricate down to every last detail. Something I found particularly beautiful were the statues upon one of the entrances. Instead of the common saints, the statues were of “people who died for the faith,” such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (which I thought was quite fitting since it was MLK day back in the U.S). There was so much to see at Westminster Abbey, but here are the top two things I thought were worth sharing:   

1.       The Scientists
There are many well-known scientists buried or honored in the abbey, which I thought was fascinating since the purpose of traveling to London was to study the history of science. Here are a couple descriptions of these scientists who furthered the development of science and were worthy of being honored in a place of great reverence:
-Isaac Newton: Known for his law of gravitation and his book, Principia, which contains the fundamental parts of physics
-Charles Darwin: Discovered natural selection, which says that organisms better adapted to their environment have a greater chance of reproducing, as the main mechanism of evolution  
-Robert Hooke: Known for his law of elasticity (Hooke’s Law) and studied microscropy in which he first used the word “cell” to describe the basic unit of life  
-Michael Faraday: Contributed greatly to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry
-Ernest Rutherford: Known as the “Father of Nuclear Physics” and discovered that atoms contain a dense nucleus

2.       Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
Similar to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington National Cemetery, a grave for an unknown warrior, buried on November 11, 1920, lies within an abbey. Part of the inscription included that “they buried him among the Kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.”

From the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I to the William Shakespeare memorial, I could go on and on about this beautiful abbey. Hopefully I was able to convey my excitement and newfound love for this famous abbey through this post. Everywhere in London seems to be considered as “holy ground” and I’m looking forward to soaking in the greatness that is this city and for the many adventures to come throughout the next few weeks!



Tower of London

by Mackenzie Theis

A view from the outside of the Tower including the wall that surrounds the Tower and grounds.

The Tower of London, founded in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest, is a Castle known by many as the home of the famous Henry the VIII and his many wives. Named after the large White Tower, built by William the Conqueror in 1078, the grounds and buildings surrounding the White Tower span over 12 acres. 

The White Tower

As the royal castle it was used as the residence of many Monarchs and later held the reputation as an infamous prison that housed some of the more high-status criminals who were often kept in comfortable conditions. One example is Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry the VIII, who was later executed on the tower grounds. For centuries the Tower has housed the Crown Jewels, which can be viewed when visiting the Tower. Today the Tower is still officially a royal residence for Her Majesty the Queen, but has not been used as such for many centuries, and has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in London.

In order to fully understand the Science aspect of our trip, we needed a historical background to set the stage for us. The Tower was our second stop on Sunday, after we were able to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace. I was extremely excited to visit and looked forward to seeing the notorious Tower in person and learn some of its more extensive history. The Tower stands out from the other buildings around it and is a true historical landmark. From the outside the Tower looks like a formidable fortress, but once you enter you are transported back in time, from the uneven stone roads throughout the Tower grounds to the white stone castle itself. As a class we went on a guided tour lead by one of The Beefeaters, who guard and live on the Tower grounds with their families. After the tour we went through the inside of the buildings on our own and could take our time looking through some of the buildings that make up the famous Tower of London. Some of which were The Bloody Tower, where the notorious murders of two Princes in the Tower is said to have taken place, the White Tower, which now houses much of the armor and weapons of the time, and the Jewel House which is home to the Crown Jewels. 

Some of the armor that was worn by Henry the VIII. The hand holding the camera is a later addition.

Throughout the grounds of the Tower life-sized exotic animals constructed out of chicken wire can be found. The animals represent the menagerie of creatures that once lived at the Tower which were gifted to the kings, such an elephant, lions, a polar bear, and baboons. It is said that the roar of the lions could be heard from outside the tower and symbolized the power held by the royal family. 

The representation of three lions that are said to be gifts to King Henry III, which are just outside the castle walls.

Overall this was an amazing experience, a site that I would not hesitate to visit again. I would recommend this to anyone who is visiting London or hopes to do so in the future. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Welcome to the Blog!

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for stopping by the blog. Today we get on the plane to London! Then in a few days blog entries will start appearing here.

Every student in the class will write an entry on one place that we see, to be posted a few days after our visit. So please check back and see what we've been up to!