10 December 2016

10th December 2016

This month a new gallery has opened at the Science Museum. Designed by the late Zaha Hadid, it celebrates the applications of Maths through history and using technology. It certainly looks impressive.

It also looks quite empty, and doesn't seem to actually have much maths. Among the exhibits are a chair, an early cashpoint machine, an aeroplane, and some skulls. Thankfully it has an abacus and an astrolabe, but it doesn't have the models of polyhedra and hyperboloid surfaces there used to be in the old Maths gallery.

But let's pick one positive. It does have an exhibit about Florence Nightingale. That's Nightingale the statistician, who drew all sorts of graphs during the Crimean War, like this one:

One of Nightingale’s most significant innovations was a diagram which showed the causes of soldiers’ deaths over two successive years in the Crimea. The first year (shown on the right of the diagram) was 1854–5, following her arrival in the region. The second (on the left) was 1855–6, after she had implemented a series of reforms to the hospital and nursing practices.

You can read more about this innovative graph, and brilliant person, at https://beta.sciencemuseum.org.uk/stories/2016/11/4/florence-nightingalethe-pioneer-statistician

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