Manchester Science Places walking tour app launched

28 April 2016

The Institute of Physics has launched a new free “Science Places” app enabling users to learn more about the scientific history of Manchester, including photos and audio, and if visiting Manchester in person, provides a map and directions to explore the city.

Manchester Science Places walking tour app

A circular tour lets users see Manchester from the perspective of John Dalton, the 19th Century scientist who is credited with the discovery of atomic theory, while other points of interest are included around the city centre.  Dalton proposed that atmospheric gases and other elements were made up of tiny particles which couldn't be divided or broken up any further, and that they combined with other elements in simple fixed proportions to make larger molecules. Dalton found that he could explain the results of a lot of chemical combinations if each element had its own particular weight, with every particle of that element always weighing the same. These particles were called "atoms" after the Greek atomos, meaning 'indivisible'.

Once you start looking for it, it is surprising how much the scientists of Manchester are honoured in its civic life, past and present.  As well as a “John Dalton Street” and numerous blue plaques, the prestige of its scientific figures is nowhere better demonstrated than by the entranceway to the Town Hall, completed in 1877. The visitor's first experience is to pass between statues of the city's two most prominent physical scientists: John Dalton and his pupil James Joule, whose promotion of the idea that heat and work were equivalent is commemorated in the naming of the "joule" as the standard unit of energy. Upstairs in the great hall, murals depict both Dalton and the amateur astronomer, William Crabtree of Broughton, observing the transit of Venus in 1639. Many more examples of this civic pride can be found through the city, and provide  a valuable insight into the importance of science and engineering in shaping the Manchester we see today.

The app forms part of the IOPs contribution towards Manchester’s year as “European City of Science”, a year of science activities in Manchester running parallel to the European Science Open Forum (ESOF), which takes place in July. As well as being an outreach project in its own right, the app also acts as a pilot for possible future projects to highlight the historic and current physics in the world around us.

Partnership plays a vital role in such projects, and we are very grateful to James Sumner at the Centre for the History of Science , Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester for providing the written content and much help and advice.

The app is free to download, and is available for iPhone/iPad and Android. Visit www.scienceplaces.org, and the app is linked from the home page.