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Oxford's Place in Medical History


Ever since Oxford scientist Robert Hooke looked down his microscope and identified the first living cell, his scientific descendants have been studying tiny but important things. They have also been creating them. Most recently, Prof Sarah Gilbert and Prof Adrian Hill and their team created the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

To celebrate the 10 millionth dose given in the UK, sculptor Luke Jerram has enlarged a nanoparticle of the vaccine one million times so that the rest of us can see what it looks like.

Appropriately produced in test-tube quality glass, it is now possible to admire the beauty of the nanoparticle’s symmetry. Presented on a revolving stand, it can be appreciated from all angles.

The Nanoparticle joins other top exhibits in the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, such as Einstein’s Blackboard and Professor Florey’s Nobel Prize for the development of Penicillin.


Just across the street in the Weston Library, you can currently (until March 2022) visit another fabulous science exhibition - Melancholy, A New Anatomy. This is in homage to Oxford scientist Robert Burton (1577-1640) who wrote a hugely detailed book about depression. The exhibition includes historical material from a number of scientists including William Harvey and Thomas Willis and compares ancient and modern ideas about treatments for mental illness. Also on show are manuscripts from famous writers such as Mary Shelley and C.S. Lewis and even a Russian copy of the Pickwick Papers.

We recommend a visit to the Museum of the History of Science and the Weston Library combined with a guided tour of Oxford. For more information about the history of science and medicine in Oxford, ask our guides!

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