National Museums of Scotland

Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

National Museum of Scotland

The oldest part of the building that houses the National Museum of Scotland was called the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art when it was opened by Prince Albert in 1866. Construction had began in 1861 and work was to continue on the first phase of the building until 1888. It was renamed the Royal Scottish Museum in 1904 and became the National Museum of Scotland in 2004. Initially much of the collection came from the University of Edinburgh’s natural history collection, which had become too big for the University’s own museum in what is now the Talbot Rice Gallery.

Free entry, although some temporary exhibitions may charge.

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Old College, University of Edinburgh

South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL

Old College, University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh was first established on this site in 1582. Unusually, it was founded by the town council of Edinburgh and most of its professorial chairs remained in the gift of the  council until the reforms brought in by the Universities (Scotland) Act in 1858. Work on the building we see now was started in 1789 and it was more or less completed by 1827. The original design was by Robert Adam. Adam died in 1792 and the building was completed by William Henry Playfair. The dome was only added in 1887.

With the exception of the Talbot Rice Gallery, the interiors of the University buildings are not open to the public.

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Sir David Brewster’s Edinburgh residence

10 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7AL

David Brewster's house

This house was Sir David Brewster’s Edinburgh residence until his death in 1868. Brewster is today best known as the inventor of the kaleidoscope. His invention could have made him a very wealthy man, but he neglected to patent it soon enough, and so earned very little  from his invention. He was also a pioneer photographer and friend of William Henry Fox Talbot. Brewster made important contributions to the science of optics, but his reputation suffered because he continued to champion the particle theory of light after the wave theory had been accepted by most other physicists.

No public access.

David Brewster (1781–1868).

David Brewster (1781–1868).

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The Talented Mister Turing

June 23rd marks the centenary of Alan Turing’s Birth. In the 100 years since his birth, science and technology have advanced dramatically. Turing only lived into his 40s, but even so his contributions to science and technology were profound, provocative, and lifesaving.

Turing’s work in computability put him on the radar at Bletchley Park, where several of Britains brightest worked to crack the code of the German Enigma Machine. The team could be thought of as an early band of hackers, trying to extract information from German military command.


One of the Enigma Machines Turing's team worked to beat was stolen. Fortunately, it was returned a few months later. (ENIGMA CODING MACHINE THEFT. ITV Lunchtime News. 04-03-2000)

Turing’s work centered around the development of the bombe, an early electromechanical device that eventually led to modern computers. The bombe could repeatedly test potential Enigma codes and pass along promising candidates to cryptanalysts at Bletchley. In succeeding, the team’s efforts are credited with bringing about Allied victory years before it might otherwise have.

Bombe Replica

The bombe, and other British inventions were showcased in this exhibition (BRITISH GENIUS EXHIBITION. News At Ten ( ITV Late Evening News). 26-05-1977)

Computability was conceptualized through the processes that a Turing machine would go through to complete tasks. Turing believed that most tasks could be broken down into something machine readable, an algorithm. This is a set of instructions for calculating a result or solving a problem. When done repeteadly and precisely, potential applications are limitless.

3D representation of the surface of the human brain

An algorithm generated this three dimensional brain scan (Surface detail of a human brain. Wellcome Images)

As algorithms and the machines that analyzed them became more powerful they eventually developed into what we now think of as supercomputers, laptops, smartphones, and so on. As the creator of the Turing machine concept and one of the early thinkers in computability, Turing is considered the grandfather of computer science and the computer itself.

Woman standing amongst a supercomputer array

Now supercomputers can be used to run stock markets, model the climate, and calculate trajectories for objects launched from Earth to destinations hundreds of thousands of miles away (Fastest Supercomputer in the World. Getty (still images). 28-06-2000)

The impact of Turing’s work in computing enabled the rise of the internet and societal development toward an information or knowledge economy.

Man talking about an internet exhibition

An early look at the internet (INTERNET EXHIBITION. ITV Lunchtime News. 25-04-1995)

Modern computer and internet integration aren’t all positive of course. The world is now more susceptible to viruses than ever. A virus from the turn of the millennium, Love Bug, made headlines simply because it was widespread. A little over a decade later, viruses often aren’t newsworthy unless they cause significant problems at noteworthy sites.

Man giving a conference on the Love Bug Virus

The Love Bug virus caused quite a stir (COMPUTERS: LOVE BUG VIRUS. Channel 4 Early Evening News. 05-05-2000)

The Turing Test raises an array of questions about knowledge, what it means to be human, and how artificial intelligence will develop. The test attempts to determine whether a person might be able to tell if they are interacting with a human or a machine during computer-mediated socialization. Those of you who’ve seen Blade Runner may recall the Voight-Kampff test, a modified Turing Test that revealed whether or not a humanoid was human or a Replicant machine.

Sony president at a podium

Sony already has robots commercially available in Japan for various purposes. Some of them help to comfort and socialize isolated individuals. They may not pass the Turing Test yet, but they are on their way (Japan's electronics giant Sony president Ryoji Chubachi. Getty (still images). 03-06-2008)

The University of Leeds is the epicenter for a whole year of events that celebrate the man’s life, including the TURING 100 Conference on the days surrounding the anniversary. There, major figures in the world of science and technology will gather to give lectures and honor a short life’s work. It’s been 100 years since Alan Turing’s birth, and in that time we’ve come from no computers to smartphones in half of British pockets. Who knows what innovations will have come by the next time we celebrate this anniversary. Any ideas?

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Farewell to Our Man from Mars: Ray Bradbury Dies at 91

Ray Bradbury passed away at the age of 91 on 5th June leaving seven decades of work for posterity.

He was a monumental figure in 20th century science fiction and his genre of choice let him wield imagination to get a message across. He was the master of making the familiar seem strange, and the strange feel familiar.


Still from the Man and His Culture Film from the Open Video Project

"Everyday life might be pretty weird from an alien perspective" (Open Video Project : 1954)


Novels, comics, and stories of all sorts were an integral part of the author’s life from a very young age. Fahrenheit 451, possibly his most famous work, was a scathing commentary on censorship set in a dystopian future.

Person standing behind a sign that reads Art is Patriotic. Censorship Isn't at a demonstration supporting the display of Dread Scott Tyler's flag art at the Art Institute of Chicago.  (Photo by Keith Philpott//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Person standing behind a sign that reads Art is Patriotic. Censorship Isn't (Photo by Keith Philpott//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images 11-03-1989)

That book was published in the 1950s, an era characterised by its enthusiasm for censorship.

Image of a man standing outside next to a theatre poster.

The Theatres Act, which restricted the content of plays was repealed (THEATRE CENSORSHIP ENDS. News At Ten (ITV Late Evening News) 26-09-1968)

Bradbury preferred to call his own works fantasy, rather than science fiction, and although they are fantastic, books like The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles were loved by science fiction fans all over the world.

Picture of a group of people in science fiction costumes.

Humans in otherworldly attire talk about their science fiction favorites. (WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION. ITV Early Evening News 09-08-1957)

Outside the literary world, Bradbury acted as a consultant at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City and in 1982 he was instrumental in the development of Spaceship Earth, the iconic “Epcot ball” at Disney World in Florida.

Image of two men playing early computer games.

Take a look at first impressions of Epcot (EPCOT. News at Ten (ITV Late Evening News) 10-04-1982)

His contributions to science fiction also inspired many to go into the fields of science and technology.

Image of a landing probe.

Mission: Impossible, landing a probe on a comet five billion miles away (SPACE: EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY MISSION TO LAND PROBE ON COMET. ITV Early Evening News. 19-02-2004)

Some of Bradbury’s work describes then-futuristic computers, modes of transportation, and what he believed it would be like to colonise other planets.

Image of the USS Starship Enterprise from the series Star Trek

Power in the Star Trek universe may be closer to reality than we think (ANTI MATTER ATOMS CREATED. Channel 4 News (Channel 4 Early Evening News). 01-05-1996)

Curl up with one of Bradbury’s books over the weekend. Or any book, for that matter – that’s what he would have wanted.


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