John and I splurged on an evening out the other night. We planned ahead, made reservations and bought tickets for a special event: the curator tour of a new permanent exhibit at the Huntington Library. It's called Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.
Dan Lewis, the Huntington's Dibner Senior Curator for the History of Science and Technology, somehow got this wacky idea that science is beautiful. He went about putting together an exhibit of books and objects significant to the history of science as well as beautiful in and of themselves. Lewis gave an introductory talk to the 20 of us who were lucky enough to have made reservations early. Then he let us loose.
The Huntington Library already owned a vast collection of books relating to the history of science when, in 2006, it received the donation of the 67,000-volume Burndy Library from the Dibner family of Connecticut. This new exhibit features some of the most significant books and manuscripts of the now-combined collection (think Edwin Hubble's copy of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus), augmented by other fun stuff - like a prism experiment, antique medical models and the coolest collection of light bulbs I've ever seen.
Not that I've seen a lot of light bulb collections. But!
I love books, especially rare and ancient ones. I marvelled at 13th century astronomy books. I gaped at the sight of at least a hundred volumes of Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species in different languages and editions, lined up in a special case in a red room. I liked the optics room with its twinkly lights and I think kids will especially love it. But my favorite was the section on medicine and childbirth, with its gruesomely beautiful texts and drawings from the days when medicine was first breaking taboos to learn the workings of the human body.
The 16th century astronomy book above has colorful moving dials for measuring the heavens. Behind it is a mural created specifically for the exhibit, depicting the view you'd see if no wall separated you from a San Gabriel Valley night without light pollution - something like what Hale and Einstein might have seen over 75 years ago.
More pics tomorrow.