Oxford, England

     On August 16, 2016 I had the opportunity to visit the Oxford University in England. 

Oxford, England area map

     The University of Oxford has no known foundation date. Teaching at Oxford existed in some form as early as 1096, but it is unclear when a university came into being.   It may be one of the oldest Universities in England.

Oxford, England 2016

     One of the major main things to see at Oxford is the, “Sheldonion Theatre” (pictured below).  It was built to house the secular, and apparently rowdy, graduation ceremonies of 1600s and 1700s Oxford. These were previously held in the St. Mary the Virgin on High church, but it was felt that a more secular environment was needed. Built on a Roman theater design, the theatre also features a “geometrical flat floor” roof made of wooden beams bolted together and noted for its long-term stability.

Round building on the left is the Sheldonion Theatre

     Next door is the Church of St. Mary.  Pictured below is the Spire of University.

The Spire of the University Church of St. Mary

     Of course, my main objective at the University of Oxford was to visit the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, (pictured below).

The History of Science Museum at Oxford

     This famous building was constructed in 1683 to house the extraordinary collection of Elias Ashmole, an English politician, antiquary, and one of the founding Fellows of the Royal Society. In 1924 the building became dedicated specifically to the history of science.

The main instruments-of-measurement room in the Oxford Museum of the History of Science

     The museum contains a wealth of astronomical and navigational instruments from globes to astrolabes, sundials, and quadrants, as well as microscopes, telescopes, and instruments of measurement. The library and archive contains reference materials including manuscripts, incunabula, prints, printed ephemera and early photographic material related to the history of science.

Einstein at Oxford, England

     In a downstairs room packed with beakers and test tubes and magnificent microscopes, a modest blackboard hangs on the wall as a memento of the visit of Albert Einstein to the university in 1931. The board was never erased after his lecture.

Einstein’s Blackboard at Oxford, England

     Albert Einstein was internationally celebrated for both his special and general theories of relativity when he was invited to Oxford in 1931.  He gave a series of three lectures on relativity.  This blackboard was preserved from the second lecture on 16 May 1931.

     During the 1920s Edwin Hubble’s observational work on red shifts had established that other galaxies were receding form our own.  In his lecture Einstein outlined a relatively simple model to explain the apparent expansion of the universe.

     The first three lines establish an equation for D, the measure of expansion in the universe.  The lower four lines provide numerical values for the expansion density, radius and age of the universe.

Herschel’s Newtonian Reflector Telescope

     On the stairway, this instrument is a Newtonian reflector by William Herschel, famous for discovering the planet Uranus and building very large reflectors.  this is his 7-ft (focal length) model, the type used in the discovery of Uranus. 

The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is an extinct flightless bird that was endemic to the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

     The fate of the poor dodo bird is slightly misrepresented by history. It seems “common knowledge” that all dodos were hunted down by European visitors, because they were slow and had no innate fear of humans. This is only partially true. It wasn’t the main reason for their extinction.  Yes, many were collected by the Dutch sailors and settlers, but there was something else that had a larger impact on their eventual extinction, invasive animals that the sailors brought with them on their ships; namely, rats, cats and pigs that went feral.  They actually sealed the fate of the dodo by eating all the dodo eggs they could find that were all on the ground in the simple unprotected dodo nests. The mother dodo would only lay one egg per season. It didn’t take long for the production of new baby dodo chicks to take a very steep decline. None of the nests were safe from foraging wild pigs and a multitude of newly introduced rats.

Fossil Crinoid Sea lilies of the Silurian sea

     This display of fossil crinoid and coral of impressively large proportions,  is an amazing giant natural association of a concentrated group of large, complete prehistoric SEA LILIES of the species Scyphocrinus elegans with a rare fossil coral colony. The slab was formerly the bottom of the 460 million year ago Silurian sea where a number of these creatures died and became buried still in their original articulated positions as they were when once alive.  Amazing! 

My guess: The Spiny Leonaspis

     Trilobites were a very diverse group of extinct marine arthropods. They first appeared in the fossil record in the Early Cambrian (521 million years ago) and went extinct during the Permian mass extinction (250 million years ago). They were one of the most successful of the early animals on our planet with over 25k described species, filling nearly every evolutionary niche. Due in large part to a hard exoskeleton (shell), they left a excellent fossil record, (pictured above).

The Bridge of Sighs at the University of Oxford

     While leaving the Oxford, I crossed under the Bridge of Sighs.  The real name of the bridge is the Hertford Bridge and it was built in 1914 by Sir Thomas Jackson. It took its popular name from the fact that it is supposed to look just like the bridge of the same name in Venice. Actually it resembles the Rialto Bridge more than anything else, but the Bridge of Sighs sounds more romantic.

     The bridge is a fine example of the Quadrature of the Parabola, developed by Archimedes in the 3rd century BC – a rather difficult geometrical concept in that the area of a parabolic segment is 4/3 of a certain inscribed triangle. It all comes down to the triangle (top) of the bridge is supported by the arch (parabola) because they are of the same base length and height.

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