Major new gallery Engineers opens at the Science Museum

Published:  05 July, 2023

The Science Museum has opened a significant new gallery dedicated to world-changing engineering innovations and the diverse and fascinating range of people behind them.

Engineers change the world. They work creatively, sustainably, with precision, and collaboratively, to create bold, ground-breaking responses to global challenges and improve billions of lives. The free Engineers gallery celebrates engineering heritage and showcases some of these innovations through the global lens of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering – a leading award for engineers – with current and past prize winners featured throughout.

Forming the heart of the gallery are richly illustrated, characterful stories from 60 engineers working in a broad range of industries, such as farming, fashion, robotics and medicine, shining a light on their lives, motivations, ways of thinking, and what they do day-to-day. Highlighting a breadth of promising new work which builds on the successes of previous QEPrize winners, these stories sit within four distinct sections.

Bodies looks at how engineers are vital to our health and wellbeing and showcases innovations developed to deliver precision treatments to people who need them most. In Lives, LED lighting and digital imaging sensors illustrate how engineers have transformed how we light and interpret our world ever more successfully and sustainably. In Connections, GPS, internet and web technologies represent engineering as a connected practice and shows how engineers enable the networks humanity relies on to thrive. And the section on Creating reveals how engineers think in particular ways, defining and solving problems, adapting and improving, visualising outcomes, thinking about systems, and learning from failures. Their creative ways of thinking are central to developing amazing innovations which can change the world.

Object highlights include: the Ventura CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, rapidly devised in just 100 hours by University College London and collaborators; the cutting-edge CMR ‘Versius’ surgical robot arm; the world’s first digital colour camera; a miniature atomic clock which the entire GPS system depended upon; and a life-size replica of a OneWeb communications satellite suspended from the ceiling. Also on display is the water kettle of pioneering steam engineer, James Watt, embodying the inception of steam power, and directly above along one wall sweeps a stunning 3D Concorde model display, charting the evolution of the supersonic jet’s wing design over time. At the centre of the gallery is the striking ATLAS PROTOTYPE sculpture, an articulated hydraulic arm standing atop a solid carved concrete block, made by artist and speculative engineer, James Capper.

Research shows young people’s knowledge of engineering is low, and what they do know is often influenced by stereotypes and misinformation (Educational Pathways into Engineering, Engineering UK 2020). By connecting audiences with people just like themselves who have created and pursued innovation, this new gallery provides a much-needed entry to a subject many feel disconnected from, and open people’s eyes to the possibilities it affords.

Opening on International Women in Engineering Day #INWED, the gallery also seeks to address the longstanding inequality in the number of young women being accepted onto university engineering degrees (18%*) and in the UK engineering workforce (16.5%*). By featuring young female engineers from different backgrounds, and their exciting real-world solutions that help society to flourish, the free gallery inspires the next generation of girls to consider choosing engineering careers.

Situated on Level 1 of the museum, Engineers is the first permanent gallery of its kind focusing on engineers and their inventions and is located adjacent to Technicians: The David Sainsbury Gallery, which opened in November 2022. These complementary galleries showcase a rich suite of personal stories and innovations that impact our everyday life and today’s opening marks full access to Level 1 for the first time since early 2017. The fresh, contemporary design of the gallery has used carefully selected sustainable building materials, including a UK-based composite recycled plastic made primarily of yoghurt pots, as well as low energy LEDs, reflecting engineers’ role in building a sustainable future.

Engineers has been generously supported by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (Major Funder) and MathWorks (Major Sponsor).

Gallery view of Engineers, a new gallery celebrating engineers and their extraordinary stories at the Science Museum, London.

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