Meccano: the nuts and bolts of science

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Sch of History


This PhD will examine the place of Meccano in scientific cultures in the UK, from early to late twentieth century. It will focus on two key periods of history, each of which saw Meccano instantiated in different forms. During the period before WW2, Meccano will be examined as a forward-looking technology of play. This examination will be embedded in cultures of childhood, pedagogy, engineering and popular science. The Hartree Differential Analyzer (HDA), held at the Science Museum, London, was developed during this period as a hi-tech piece of scientific equipment, made of Meccano, and as such instantiates many of these themes. It forms the material-culture core of the research. During the period after WW2, Meccano will be examined as a backward-looking technology of nostalgia for narrating individual and national histories of science. Declinist narratives surrounding the HDA take central stage in this portion of the project, alongside popular and oral accounts of participation and education in science and engineering.


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