A Review of the Science Museum’s New Winton Gallery

Greeted by warm croissants and a virtual reality demo, we arrived at the opening of the new Winton Gallery at the Science Museum. The spaceship-like gallery, designed by internationally acclaimed Zaha Hadid Architects, succeeds in shedding new light onto the historically impenetrable field of mathematics by highlighting the essential role that it plays in our everyday lives. Ranging from trade and travel to war and peace, life, death, form and beauty, each zone explores a diverse array of historical artifacts and accounts of remarkable breakthroughs that showcase the influence of maths in shaping our modern society.

Picture1Cabinet of foreign weights, 1818-20, Mathematics The Winton Gallery, Science Museum, c.Jody Kingzett.

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Babbage’s analytical engine, 1871, Mathematics The Winton Gallery, Science Museum, c.Jody Kingzett.

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Enigma machine, 1934, Mathematics The Winton Gallery, Science Museum, c.Jody Kingzett.

As award-winning curator Dr. David Rooney said, “the gallery reveals a rich cultural story of human endeavour that has helped transform the world over the past four hundred years.” This includes the pioneering inventions of Imperial’s very own Igor Aleksander, emeritus professor of electrical engineering. Aleksander designed the world’s first neural pattern recognition system, WISARD, in 1981, which is now proudly on display in the gallery. Mimicking the brain’s intricate network of neurons, the machine looks for patterns in data to match faces seen in a camera to faces stored in the machine’s memory. This marked the beginning of facial recognition research which is now widely used in security systems and artificial intelligence.

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I, Science events manager, Judit Agui, talking to associate curator for Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, Iris Veysey, in front of Igor Aleksander’s WISARD pattern-recognition machine, c.Natasha Gertler.

The Winton Gallery is the world’s first permanent public exhibition space designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, and fittingly so. The late, British-Iraqi architect, Dame Zaha Hadid, was fascinated by mathematics from an early age, using multiple perspectives and fragmented geometry in her designs and who beautifully described “maths was like sketching.” Her much celebrated work includes the aquatic centre for the London 2012 Olympics as well as the Serpentine Sackler Gallery just up the road (which currently also has an exhibition of Hadid’s beautiful early paintings and drawings).

Placed at the centre of the gallery is the Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’ aeroplane, which was built in 1929 and represents a pivotal shift in aerodynamic research and public opinion about the safety of aviation. Inspired by the laminar and turbulent airflow lines that would occur around the aircraft during flight, the gallery’s design features a maze of illuminated 3D structures that turn the space into a futuristic, photogenic marvel.

The Winton Gallery will take you on an enlightening journey, awakening your appreciation for mathematics, and leave you dreaming of its spectacular, architectural triumph.

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Mathematics The Winton Gallery, Science Museum, c.Jody Kingzett.

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Mathematics The Winton Gallery, Science Museum, Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects 3, c.Nick Guttridge (2).

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Mathematics The Winton Gallery, Science Museum, Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects 3, c.Nick Guttridge (1).

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Mathematics The Winton Gallery, Science Museum, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, c.Jody Kingzett.

Natasha Gertler is studying for an MSc in Science Communication

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