The Land

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Theme Convener: Penrose Angwin, M.B.E.
Display Designers: Stefan Buzas and Ronald Sandiford

In shaping Britain and nurturing her, nature has been peculiarly moderate. We have no extremes of climate; our driest places are not deserts, our waterways are modest and our mountains would be lost in the shadows of the Andes. Yet, by some persistent anomaly, the British have always been lured to discovery and exploration by those very regions of the world where nature has been most extravagant or most severe – Livingstone by the jungles and lakes of Africa, Scott by the icy Antarctic, Sturt by Australia’s barren heart, Mallory by the supreme isolation of Everest.

The footsloggers

This urge is within all of us to some degree. So, when we recall how much of the present world our forebears have made known, we do not experience wonder so much as admiration of their courage in accepting the challenge we all have felt and of the endurance it drew from them. Their discovery has lcd to exploration, and exploration to development of new lands by those skills we learned at home. Thus have we served whole continents.

This is the theme of the opening section of the Dome. Apart from a brief glance-back to the past, its setting is the intensive exploration and development of the present time.


Inseparable from exploration nowadays is accurate surveying and making maps without which development is impossible. The British have surveyed vast areas of the globe, steadily improving methods and evolving better instruments as part of this achievement. Nor is this work done yet; yearly, standards are getting higher and the scope is widening as aircraft, for example, and new physical devices are added to the equipment. These new methods are illustrated in the displays.

Water controlled

In developing the land, control of water is one of the first essentials. Without control it floods and destroys at random; its absence means aridity and useless soils. Properly constrained it brings fertility; harnessed, it gives up a mighty power. A great river is like a living thing, for all its parts are related together in behaviour and change in one will bring about change in the rest. So, any permanent alteration in its course or habit must be made with due regard to the whole of its catchment area.

Even in the mild land of Britain we have our river problems, and the way we are dealing with one of them – the Great Ouse – is illustrated in this section. But it is in overseas lands, where the scales are vastly larger, that British achievements in water engineering can be seen at their peak – damming, irrigating and delivering the hydro-electric power essential for the advancement of primitive or undeveloped territories.

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Of the world’s exports, the Commonwealth countries provide two-thirds of its butter, half its cheese, much of its wheat, nearly half its tinned meat and, in addition, provide about half the worlds wool supply. The tropical areas contribute a very large percentage of the worlds supply of sisal, sugar, cocoa, palm oil, rubber and tea. But even all this is not enough, for, viewed as a whole, the world is grievously short of food. The modern trend, therefore, is even further development of overseas producing areas, but with a vastly increasing application of scientific knowledge which is already saving bitter years of trial and error. Some examples of this are shown in the displays. Our own Kew Gardens plays a vital part in all this, for it is here that new crop plants are tried out and, if successful, distributed to new growing areas. It was Kew, in fact, that reared wild rubber plants from Brazil, reproduced them, and sent the seedlings out to found a new and great industry in Malaya.

An essential factor in the success of all these agricultural operations is the interchange of ideas and information. This is provided by the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, a unique service for the collection, abstraction and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge.

Pest control

Science, too, is ensuring that we make the best of what we have already by providing the most suitable weapons to fight the pests and diseases which are inevitably mans rivals in bidding for the yield of food. Among other instances, we show that even the locust, one of the oldest enemies of agriculture, is slowly being brought under control.

Tropical medicine

But, if these new lands are to continue producing the food and raw materials the world so sorely needs, they must be fit for man to live and work in. Tropical disease is a many-headed horror which the British have been particularly eager to seek out and kill. Sleeping sickness and malaria they have already subdued in many areas by a combined assault of doctors, scientists and administrators; now one of the targets for attack is leprosy. For the last five thousand years it has been a scourge and, even now, its victims number seven million, but at last new drugs have been found that promise to bring its ravages to an end.

Commonwealth links

The great witness of British exploration by land is the Commonwealth of Nations. By now its strongest binding force is common ideas and ideals, and visual evidence of this is the vast communications system which came into being as a result of British enterprise-sea lanes, air routes, railways, cables and, now, radio. Speech is the most intimate of all ways of communicating. Our sons and daughters have left Britain and set up their own homes overseas, our adopted children are coming into their own estates. But we can still speak to them – and do so every day, using 44 languages, some of which the visitor can hear – on a radio system which itself is part of our contribution to the welfare of mankind.

The Earth

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Theme Convener: Sonia Withers ◦ Display Designer: Robert Gutmann

The ways in which we satisfy this desire of ours to discover and explore vary with the times. It has never been far from the surface, and about a hundred and thirty years ago, for example. it began to assert itself with remarkable persistence. Clapperton was in the West African jungle, Oxley had started on the first great adventure into the heart of Australia. Franklin was discovering new lands in remote Canada and Ross and Parry were searching for the Northwest Passage. At the same time, a very different kind of exploration was beginning in our own countryside – exploration downwards to discover the nature and structures of the rocks that lie deep down beneath our feet. The pioneer was William Smith.

Exploration downwards

The exploratory work of Smith and others that joined him did not demand great courage or physical endurance, it called for patient observation, honest piecing together of clues and an outstanding scientific imagination that enabled them to visualise underground structures from the piecemeal evidence the rocks gave when they came to the surface. Vital, too, was their realisation that the relative ages of rocks could be read from the fossil remains they contained. How this is done is shown by the displays in this section. The “Land of Britain” also shows how animal life has changed throughout the ages.

Smith made the first geological map of Britain. In doing so, he used a method of recording observations and the probability of underground structures which is now indispensable to all of mans workings in the outer crust of the Earth.

The importance of this new science, founded by Smith, Hutton, Lyell and others, was soon recognised officially. Britain created the first Geological Survey, and showed the world how valuable this science can be when it is organised for the service and development of whole countries. Without it, recovery of the Earths hidden riches – coal, oil, minerals and the rest – would still be a very haphazard affair.

Recent years have brought us new tools with which we can explore even deeper. Modern borings can now recover cores from depths nearly twice the height of Ben Nevis; physicists have not only wrested new knowledge from the study of earthquake waves but have created devices for studying the depths of the crust by waves they create themselves. Much of this work has been stimulated by the increasing need to discover new oil fields.

The earth within

Gradually, then, the secrets of the Earth within are being revealed. Its age is about 3,400 million years. The crust upon which we live, mountains and all, is no more than the skin is to an apple. We know that under this crust the Earth is not quiescent, it has a liquid layer, alive with eddies and currents. It is this liquid rock, thrust up when the thin crust turns, as it were, in its uneasy sleep, that eventually gives rise to the pockets and veins of minerals and metallic ores on which our way of life depends.

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Mineral wealth

These minerals and ores are part of the well-founded riches of the Commonwealth countries. Some of them we have here at home, some we have had but they are now worked out, and the experience we gained in mining them or extracting them from their ores has been passed out overseas. There are few of these resources that the Commonwealth cannot now provide: gold, silver, nickel, tin, copper, lead and zinc are a few of the metals, diamonds for industry as well as for jewellery, asbestos and mica with their multitude of uses. Many of these are displayed in this section of the Exhibition.


The story of this field of exploration, as we tell it here, returns to the surface, then, with the extruded molten rock and the mineral wealth it holds, yet there is still a part of it to tell – the chapters revealed by those who explore the latest shelves in this library of the past, the archæologists. It is they who have pieced together the histories and ways of life of past civilisations, some so ancient that they have not even left records incised on bricks or stone.

The great citadel of Mohenjo-daro overlooking the Indus, the great Ziggurat on the plain at Ur, the gorgeous palace of King Minos in Crete – these are just three of the lost achievements of the past that the method and imagination of British archælogists have brought to light again to aid us when we pause to think about the progress of mankind.


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Theme Conveners: Quintin Riley and J.L.P Macnair ◦ Display Designer: Jock Kinneir

Of all regions of the Earth, the Arctic and Antarctic have offered the most persistent lure to our spirit of adventure and discovery.

The British started to sail the Arctic seas more than four hundred years ago, searching for a quick way to the markets of the East. It was soon established that if such passages did exist they would never be practicable as sea routes; nevertheless we continued to frequent these seas, first of all hunting the whales that abounded there, and then for discovery for its own sake. In summary, what we know now of the Arctic regions between West Greenland and the Behring Strait is almost entirely the result of British exploration in the course of many voyages and journeys over land or ice – an heroic backcloth against which to view contemporary knowledge and achievement.

The assault on Antarctica followed different trends, for it is a continent and not, like the regions around the North Pole, an archipelago of islands and ice into the heart of which ships can penetrate. It is here that recent British Polar effort has been particularly concentrated in the permanent Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey. It is on the experience of this Survey, which covers a number of sciences, that many of the displays in this section are based. A full-scale Base Hut, for example, shows something of the modern polar way of life.

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Polar exploration, then, is more than ever a serious though exhilarating business and takes all possible advantage of new developments, for example in transport, nutrition and equipment, to improve its efficiency and value to the world. The meteorological observers in the Falkland Islands Dependencies provide data essential to the accuracy of forecasts for the whole of the Southern Ocean. Studies of the rocks here, or in the North Polar regions, are vital to the understanding of the past history of the Earth. Details about the structure and behaviour of the ice caps have an important bearing on new knowledge about the past, and possibly the future, trends in the climate of the world.


To give an impression of the conditions of travel and of equipment now used, a theatre has been included in this section where men with polar experience are giving demonstrations. One of’ the most modern means of transport – the snowmobile – can be seen in action; but in many types of terrain the dog-drawn sledge is still indispensable. An essential part in these displays, then, is played by husky dogs, most of them born and trained in Antarctica, sent here for this precise purpose by His Excellency the Governor of the Falkland Islands.


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Theme Conveners: C. Hamilton Ellis and Nigel Clayton ◦ Display Designers: Austin Frazer and Ellis Miles

The memorial to British discovery by sea is the chart of the globe. Straits, bays, seas, islands, headlands, rivers, and even whole countries – all the world over they mirror back names from Britain.

Britain was the first sea-discovery of our forebears. For some races this island, in itself, might then have brought an end to voyaging; but for us it has been a harbour, rather, from which we have continued to launch ourselves out into the world. Of all the arenas where the destinies of nations are decided we still prefer to face our difficulties at sea.

Four hundred years ago the nation was in a pass from which the only escape was by new foreign markets for our goods, and the establishment of trade with countries overseas. It was in seeking them out in the uncharted world that British sailors made greater contributions to sea discovery than those of any other nation. They had the enterprise and leadership, they built the ships that would keep the seas and, besides these, they had an ingrained curiosity and skill which laid the foundation of scientific navigation.

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James Cook

In this small gallery of the Dome we cannot pay tribute to all the names renowned for discovery at sea; we have, instead, singled out the greatest of them all – James Cook – for special mention. His life is summarised by the names of his exploring ships – Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure, Discovery. He was a great seaman, but unique in his time for the attention he gave to the welfare of the men who worked his ships. He was a great navigator, but his genius as a surveyor made each voyage classical, each another foundation stone for modern geography. He was a very great explorer and a man of science, but his humanity and understanding were such that no extermination or slavery followed his discovery of a new race or people.

In six years Cook systematically eliminated a landmass – the Great Southern Continent – the existence of which had been firmly imagined by geographers for twenty-five centuries. His worth as a hydrographer cannot be overestimated.


It was the British who first set about a systematic charting of’ the whole world and for many years it was British charts, which we did not keep to ourselves, that the ships of all nations relied on. Modern methods in hydrographic survey, as well as the many uses for which charts are now produced, are illustrated on this gallery, together with other aids to navigation and tide prediction.

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Research ships

But exploration by sea has not stopped at charting the surface waters. The cloak of Drake and Cook has now fallen on the men of science who by physical, chemical and biological techniques are adding to our knowledge of all its aspects. This phase began with the sailing of H.M.S. Challenger in 1872 – the first ship to be fully engaged on oceanographic research. Her modern counterpart is the Research Ship Discovery II, famous particularly for her work in Southern waters.

Science of the sea

In the second part of this gallery the displays show some of the things that science can tell us about the sea – its composition, its physical behaviour, the nature of the ocean beds and the living creatures that inhabit it. British research has been particularly active in studying the animals and minute plants that live near the surface – the plankton. They play a vital part in the cycle of life in the sea – not only for fish but even for many whales which feed almost entirely upon these diminutive animals.


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Theme Convener: Arthur Garratt ◦ Display Designer: Ronald Sandiford

Here, on this gallery of the Dome, we follow the story of exploration upward off the earth, first of all into the atmosphere which causes our weather.


Weather records were kept at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and the first daily weather map ever produced was sold to the public there. In the “Sky” section of the Dome a modern Weather Forecasting Unit is working. It produces forecasts for the next twenty-four hours, illustrating at the same time how the meteorologist goes to work.

Modern forecasting depends on the collection of weather data all over the world, and the passing of the information quickly to the central points where the forecasts are made. Our present system is essentially an international one, operating through a world-wide network of radio, telephone and teleprinter services which are in constant use for weather messages only.

Developments in physical appliances have been a great help to meteorologists because they can provide data from places out of man’s reach. Balloons, for instance, are now sent far up into the sky with special equipment that can radio back information about conditions in the upper atmosphere. Meanwhile, their course is plotted by radar to show how the wind is blowing, say, ten miles up.

This is just one example of the sort of equipment that is now being developed so that we can forecast weather more accurately and for longer periods ahead than is possible at present.

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Ionospheric research

From the weather-zone, the story of exploration tends upward to about 250 miles above the earth’s surface. British scientists were among the first to discover that the sun’s radiation forms layers at about this height by electrically charging (or ionising) the particles of the atmosphere. This region is now called the ionosphere, and it has three main layers – one 70 miles up, another at 140 miles and a third 250 miles above the earth.

These layers are the reason why we can transmit radio signals for great distances. But they are not hard and fast in their behaviour, so there are a lot of variations that have to be understood before our long-distance signalling can be perfect.

In this work of improving radio transmission and reception, British scientists and technicians are playing a leading part – just as they did in discovering the ionosphere and exploring it.

Outer Space

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Theme Convener: Penrose Angwin, M.B.E. ◦ Display Designers: Austin Frazer and Eric Towell

The explorers of outer space – beyond the ionosphere – are the astronomers. With intellect and imagination they have reached out millions of miles and brought down the knowledge on which our understanding of the universe is based.

About time

One of the immediately practical uses of astronomy is the accurate determination of time. Today we can measure it to a thousandth of a second but we still use the motions of heavenly bodies as our primary standard. This subject, particularly as it bears upon life and work today, forms the first sequence of displays on the Outer Space gallery. Its entrance can be recognised from all over the Dome by a replica of the famous Greenwich Time Ball, which used to give a time check at one o’clock every day so that ships in the Thames could regulate their chronometers.

Modern knowledge of the heavens is an international achievement in which British astronomers have played a great part. Most of the displays that follow on this gallery, giving vivid impressions of various parts of the universe, are based, therefore, on knowledge contributed by a number of nations.

The planets

They begin with our own earth – presented, not as we know it from first-hand experience, but as one of a number of heavenly bodies with its own peculiar way of behaving in space. Next we show the major planets – Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, as they might be seen from their satellites. Into this series of displays comes our own satellite, the moon, whose surface we know much more intimately than that of any of the planets. Amateur astronomers have added a lot to this knowledge, in determining the depth of the various craters, estimating the changing surface temperatures and mapping its features.

The stars

Beyond the solar system, which is illustrated in moving model form, we have to go vast distances in our imaginations before reaching other bodies. Our own solar system is merely a tiny entity in the galaxy we call the Milky Way. Outside the Milky Way are many other vast clouds of stars – the nebulae. At such distances we can only see stars, any planets they may have around them are unknown to us.

Our own sun is, in many ways, a typical star, and by studying it in detail astronomers have come to learn much about stars in general. Following on this, brilliant reasoning by physicists and astronomers (many of them British) has given us knowledge of the life history of a star. We present this by a new visual technique in the Outer Space gallery.


Of all discoverers, Isaac Newton must surely be rated the worlds greatest. Some of his achievements are shown in the “Physical World” section of the Dome. But his fertile mind contributed a great deal also to astronomy. It was he who showed that the physical universe is governed by law and not by caprice. In addition, he designed the first reflecting telescope, invented the calculus and laid the foundations of spectroscopy – all tools of the astronomer.

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Since Newton, Britain has continued to be very active in designing telescopes and the gear associated with them. As modern examples we show a replica of the new St. Andrews telescope and, on the ground floor, the 74-inch telescope now being completed for use in Australia. But bigger and better though our telescopes become, it is now believed that a point will be reached in space beyond which they will never be able to penetrate, because the universe is expanding at a speed greater than that of light.

The radio telescope

The latest tool of astronomers is radio. A few years ago it was discovered that short-wave radio signals came to us from outer space. It is now known that these originate in part of the sky where there are no visible stars. How they arise is still a mystery. When we solve it, we shall know more about the origin of cosmic rays. You can see in this section what these signals look like.

But as well as using radio passively, as it were, by studying signals originating in outer space, we can also employ it actively for astronomical exploration. This is one of the newer uses of radar, which, in short, enables us to see by means of radio waves. Strong pulses are sent out from the earth and received again after reflection from heavenly bodies. By this technique we can locate meteors, for example, even when they are invisible to the eye, and calculate their velocity accurately.

The main display of this new method is the radio telescope which visitors themselves will be able to operate. Its aerial is on top of the Shot Tower and can be beamed on to the moon. The signals transmitted take about two and a half seconds to get to the moon and be reflected back to earth. Visitors will be able to see them clearly on a cathode ray tube.

This radio telescope is an advance on equipment yet produced because it can reach the moon whenever it is above the horizon. Other transmitters have only obtained echoes when the moon was near the horizon – rising or setting. The radio telescope will be used solely for scientific purposes after the Exhibition closes, and even while it is open it will be contributing to contemporary research on problems of fading. It is hoped that this will start by giving us more information about conditions in the upper atmosphere of the Earth and on the surface of the moon.

The Living World

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Theme Convener: Kenneth Chapman ◦ Display Designers: Austin Frazer and Stirling Craig

In the foregoing sections of the Dome we have shown something of man’s achievement in exploration from the earth downward, outward and upward to the extremes of outer space where only intellect and imagination can carry him. The results are ever-increasing knowledge, and that knowledge is Science.

But this British desire to explore expresses itself in yet another way – as a probing deep inside nature to discover the secrets of the processes by which it works. Those who concern themselves with inanimate things are the physicists and chemists; the explorers of the world of living things are the biologists. The researches of these men and women are no less explorations than the journeys of Livingstone or the voyages of Cook. They do not necessarily have to travel far in pursuing their discoveries, but it so happens that some of them have been explorers by land or sea as well. A number of our own leading men of science to-day have been members of expeditions, for example to polar regions, the tropics or the Himalayas.

In exploring the living world, our biologists have been eminent in studying animals and plants as they occur in nature, why and how they live as they do and how they have come to be what they are. Here, in science, they have shown a trait characteristic of the British as a whole – a peculiar sympathy and understanding of the animals and plants around them. It expresses itself in many ways – not only in the work of our early naturalists but in stockraising and the English garden – to mention only two.

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Our early biologists

Of the early British biologists, three have been chosen to illustrate three of the directions from which the living world can be explored. They are John Ray who studied animals and plants so that he could classify them in their natural orders, Robert Brown, a laboratory scientist who was interested in their structure, and Gilbert White who made long and patient observations of the ways in which animals and plants live in their natural environment.

Charles Darwin

Dominating this section, just as his work still influences all modern biology, is Charles Darwin. The results of his work and thought, all through the world, are incalculably great. He had within him the sympathetic insight of the countryman, an accurate memory of distant explorations, the discipline of a naturalist and biologist and, above all, an intellect that could analyse and range his myriad observations into a theory that brought about a revolution in the scientific world. This was Natural Selection.

Associated with Darwin in the displays are the more notable of his contemporaries such as Huxley and Wallace, whose work also was strongly influenced by travel and exploration abroad.

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Modern research

The section culminates in a number of examples of modern work and research in biology – all of them showing an acceptance of the evolutionary principles that Darwin formulated, but pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge even further – study of mimicry in butterflies and the evolution of their form, to investigation of learning in birds. Pursuing the subject of learning, contemporary research on the brain and nervous mechanisms of octopuses and squids is demonstrated. The results of this have applications far beyond these creatures themselves and bear upon the working of the human nervous system.

Other displays are concerned with the mechanism of inheritance, with the intimate relationship between animals and their environment, migration, and the evolution of mankind. Taken together, all these examples show how the work of Charles Darwin has influenced the approach of those who to-day explore and discover in the Living World.

The visitor may notice that certain of our outstanding biological achievements with practical value are not included in this section. These are shown in those Pavilions to whose stories they particularly contribute. Pest control, for example, is in “The Land”, science in agriculture is in “The Country”, medicine and physiology are in the “Health” Pavilion.

The Physical World

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Theme Conveners: Arthur Garratt and Jan Read ◦ Display Designers: Ronald Ingles and Clifford Hatts

In this section is the story of those who have explored inside nature to discover how matter – the substance of all things – is made, and what natural laws govern its behaviour. The desire to know these things has long burned in this country and in pursuing it we have done much to found and develop the sciences of chemistry and physics – the names by which we call these provinces of enquiry.

Pure science – discovery for its own sake – has huge rewards to offer the human mind: whole new territories of beauty and order, fantastic in their intricacy. This you can see in the Exhibition of Science in South Kensington. But these explorations have produced something else of vast importance – the basis for most, if not all, of the great material achievements of the modern world. It is these discoveries that form most of the displays in the Physical World.

As you come into the section, you can make the same choice as the earlier scientists did – whether to find out first how matter is built up (chemistry) or why it behaves as it does (physics). Whichever of these sequences you take first you can follow out the second later; both, however, come together again (as the sciences do) in the subject of the atom and its nucleus which is displayed on the upper gallery.

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Chemical discovery

The chemical sequence shows how much men like Boyle, Black, Cavendish, Priestley and Dalton added to our knowledge of the structure of matter and how the conception of atoms, molecules and elements arose. The story then passes on to the ways in which various substances can combine together to produce materials quite unlike any of their constituents. Such knowledge enables chemists not only to produce such combinations at will, but nowadays to make substances that do not occur in nature. This synthesis, as it is called, is the highlight of modem chemistry. Already it has produced sulpha drugs, paludrine and vitamins for preserving the health of mankind, rayon, nylon and terylene for clothing and plastics for all manner of purposes.

Physical discovery

The fundamental discoveries of British physicists have had very many applications. One example of Boyle’s law, for instance, is the modern mechanism for closing the doors of underground trains; one of the outcomes of Newton’s genius has ultimately been the jet engine; Faraday’s classical experiments with a magnet and some coils of wire made electric power possible. Kelvin’s mathematical insight helped to create refrigerators; Maxwell laid the foundations of radio before a message had ever been transmitted; J. J. Thomson’s discovery of the electron resulted, among many other things, in the cathode ray tube of a television set. It was Rutherford who provided the means for releasing nuclear energy.

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The results of the physicists and chemists have led also to many technical advances in other subjects. Motor cars, for example, are more efficient as a result of the instruments physicists have evolved for testing every new design. Medicine, biology, metallurgy owe them a great debt for the provision of research tools. It was mathematics that offered the principal tool to physicists; now physicists have provided calculating machines which take minutes to solve problems that would take mathematicians many months.

Nuclear research

The pioneer work in nuclear physics was done in Britain, though the development of the atomic pile, as such, was largely an international achievement. The displays of this subject, which form the conclusion of the Physical World section, do not embark on speculation about future marvels; they do show, however, some of the applications that are being developed at the present time. Important among them are the by-products of research which have given medicine the very important new technique of radioactive tracers. With these an atom can, as it were, be labelled and observed in its movements through the human body.

This great field of exploration, then, has affected the lives of all of us. It has given us machines that lighten our labours, drugs that have altered the relationship between man and disease and altogether new means of communication. More than this, it continues to provide new tools and devices by which exploration in all other fields can be intensified, so that the horizons for human endeavour will continue to expand.