First off, all students should want to broaden their experience of the world, regardless of their major or career plans. London is cosmopolitan city itself and it is a great point of departure for explorations of the UK, Continental Europe, or North Africa.
There is also the opportunity to see current science in an international context through internships and museums and to experience a socialized system of health care through internships. Many students have compared US and UK health care as part of their senior experience projects after spending time at an internship in London.
Which locations in and around London are ideal for a Biology / Science student to explore?
Travel to Cambridge to visit The Eagle and Child pub where Francis Crick first announced that he and Watson had solved the structure of DNA; there’s a newer plaque there also commemorating the contributions of Rosalind Franklin, whose data were used to build the DNA model. In London, there is an institute in Crick's honor, The Francis Crick Institute, that continues scientific study and education. There is also a bust of Franklin on at Newnham College, where she studied chemistry and where her letters are stored in the archive.
The Natural History Museum is AMAZING. The collection of plesiosaurs discovered by Mary Anning are stunning and must be seen. Her contribution to palaeontology is often overlooked, but is celebrated at the Natural History Museum. Be sure to spend a good amount of time looking at the outside of the building; it is beautiful and full of wonderful gargoyle-like representations of the diversity of life.
The Hunterian Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in medical care. Here you can see the entire human nervous system, the early surgical equipment of Lister (who figured out that equipment should be sterilized); Down House is a must-see for all biologists and it is a fun exercise in mass transit outside the city as well.
The Wellcome Collection is quirky and cool.
Kew Gardens – an amazing botanical garden with Victorian glasshouses, a great treetop walkway, and The Hive which allows one to experience life as a bee.
The Linnean Society – where Darwin and Wallace’s papers outlining Natural Selection were read to scientists of the day. Also where most of Linnaeus’ collection of books and botanical specimens are housed (see attached photos). Classes can make an appointment for a tour.
Ben Franklin’s home.
We used Brompton Cemetery in our course last time, to study human demography.
Greenwich – getting there by boat gets students on the Thames!
The Francis Crick Institute, Royal Bethel Hospital/ Museum of the Mind, St. Mary’s Hospital (Fleming’s discovery of penicillin), The Lake District (to discuss conservation biology), the Science Museum, Millenium Seed Bank, Borough Market, Spitalfields City Farm, Down House: Darwin’s home, greenhouse, and garden.
Possible trip sites (need prior exploration): Upminster Tithe Barn and Agricultural Folk Museum, Museum of English Rural Life (in Reading), Garden Museum (Lambeth Palace), Hughenden Kitchen Garden (National Trust, near High Wycombe). River Thames: Field trips on-shore and on water to sample this central ecological habitat. Green Chain sites: Exemplar movement counteracting urban sprawl with mixed land use. Railway Fields Nature Reserve: How reclamation of a formerly developed area (e.g. railway good depot) can create an ecological oasis in the middle of a densely population location. Trust for Urban Ecology sites (e.g. Greenwich Penninsula, Stave Hill Ecological Park)
If I could spend a weekend in London I would…. ?
Only a weekend???? Sigh. First stop: Borough Market and the cheese shop/dairy nearby. I’d go to the Natural History Museum (personal favorite spot in London – particularly to see the outside of the building!) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (the latter because we spent too little time there). I’d get some southern Indian food, see a theater production (great memories of everything we saw in London!), and walk and walk and walk. If there was time and weather – Kew Gardens would be high on my list – want to see the new Hive!