Watt's workshop & rocket science

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  • Published 1.04.12

Ian Blatchford, director of Science Museum, London, said he had been wanting to come to Calcutta for a long time. An art historian, Blatchford wrote his PhD thesis on Renaissance art. He had come across a number of 18th and 19th century paintings of the city.

The other visitor was pleasantly surprised to find a road in the city that shared his surname. George Loudon was a royal trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. They were here on the invitation of INTACH, Calcutta chapter, and the Indo-British Scholars Association, to talk about their respective fields at the National Library on March 22.

Blatchford spoke about the “terrible division” that people made between the past and future. Once, while hosting a dinner for entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley at the gallery of the Science Museum, which held such treasures as the first locomotive engine and Stephenson’s rocket among others, an American told Blatchford what an excellent replica it was of Stephenson’s rocket. “I took great pleasure in telling him that it was not a replica,” said the director.

The Science Museum boasts of a massive display of medical collection which draws a number of visitors as they are curious to know “how people were cured in the ancient times”. The collection of James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, was rescued and put on display. “We have his entire workshop,” he said.

Blatchford spoke about the success of two small museums, the Museum of the History of Science (MHS), Oxford, and the John Soane Museum. “MHS has a remarkable collection of astronomical objects and microscopes,” said the director. The John Soane Museum was the residence of the architect John Soane. Blatchford recommended the model to the authorities. Efforts are on to preserve the house of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose in Calcutta and turn it into a museum.

Loudon spoke about the Millennium Seed Bank, a project to collect, store and record the germination technique of 3,00,000 wild species. “The project involves the most endangered plants,” he said. The seeds are preserved both in the country of origin and in the UK. However, India cannot participate in the project as it does not permit export of plant life.