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.

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.