Author Archives: matt

Istanbul Museum of The History of Science & Technology in Islam

We couldn’t find any science museum in Istanbul, so we tried this history museum instead.  The best thing about this museum was the building and artwork.  There are great rugs on the walls (which didn’t seem to be part of any exhibit), and the building itself is interesting.  It is long and narrow, built against a wall near the Topkapi Palace.  Inside, the palace wall is exposed in several places.

We were disappointed with the exhibits.  The objects were cool looking, but there was almost no explanation provided.  Given that this is not a science museum, it is somewhat understandable that it didn’t go into how things worked.  For example, there were scale models of huge sextants and other tools for astronomical observation, but no explanation of what a sextant is used for or how it works.  But as a history museum, it also falls flat by not providing historical context for the significance of the inventions, discoveries, and feats of engineering on exhibit.

Rating: As this isn’t a science museum, we won’t assign a rating.  Suffice it to say, at least admission is only $2.50.

Deutsches Museum (Munich, Germany)

(photo from wikimedia commons)

I visited the Deutsches Museum in 2007.  It’s enormous and amazing.  They have a huge hall of airplanes, and another of electricity, in which they have an electrical demonstration.  They had the standard lightning, but they shot it *through* (actually, around) a 2″ plate of glass.  Also, the demonstrators wore white lab coats and spoke in German (like the guy in the “Unpimp Your Ride” VW commercials — “representing deutschland” :-)

There was a hall devoted to bridges and waterworks.  There were tons of types of model bridges, with text (in English and German) explaining how they worked, when they were invented, etc.  I learned that advances in “falsework” (scaffolding raised around the bridge while it’s being constructed) enabled many of the designs we see today.  And they had an awesome indoor pedestrian bridge of a design I’d never seen — a curved, stressed ribbon suspension bridge, supported by a single post and a cable running beneath the walkway.  It also had a display showing a real-time graph of the tension in each of the supporting members.

There are also a huge number of historic artifacts — planes and electrical equipment, including the first electric dynamo, the first automobile, the first diesel engine, the first motorized airplane, and the laboratory bench where the atom was first split.  In the courtyard are water turbines, “installed outdoors since they weigh between 15 and 44 tons and exceed by far the loading capacity of the museum building’s floors”!

This museum has a really different feel from other science museums.  It’s much more technical, showing how science is applied to engineering.  It’s the only science museum I’ve been to where I learned something at every exhibit.  Most of the museum is not as child-oriented as most science museums, but they do have an entire hall devoted to children’s exhibits.

Surprisingly, there weren’t many other visitors when I was there.  That’s unfortunate, because this is the most incredible science museum I’ve ever been to.  I didn’t have time to see all of it, and I’ll definitely return if I get the chance!

Rating:  Alien (5/5)