Science Museum’s Illuminating India exhibition is a sensation!

Shasti Lowton - Image by Lopa Patel

Assistant curator Shasti Lowton at the launch of the Science Museum's Illuminating India exhibition on 3rd October 2017. Image by Lopa Patel.

The Science Museum in London launched its ‘Illuminating India’ exhibition to the fanfare of six dhol drummers last night (3rd October 2017). Attended by over 600 guests, the launch event heard from H.E Y K Sinha, High Commissioner of India to the UK; Dame Mary Archer, Chair of Trustees and Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group. Illuminating India presents an international perspective on the remarkable contributions of the Indian subcontinent to global science and culture over the last 5000 years. Conceived with the support of sponsors including The Bagri Foundation, The Helen Hamlyn Trust and the John S Cohen Foundation, the museum hopes that the exhibition will be able to tour India following its six month showing in London.

Among the most celebrated exhibits is the ancient Indian Bakhshali manuscript which is on loan from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library. The origin of the symbol zero has long been one of the world’s greatest mathematical mysteries. New carbon dating research commissioned by the Library into the manuscript has revealed it to be hundreds of years older than initially thought, making it the world’s oldest recorded origin of the zero symbol that we use today.

Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, said: “Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and is a key building block of the digital world. But the creation of zero as a number in its own right, which evolved from the placeholder dot symbol found in the Bakhshali manuscript, was one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of mathematics. We now know that it was as early as the 3rd century that mathematicians in India planted the seed of the idea that would later become so fundamental to the modern world. The findings show how vibrant mathematics have been in the Indian subcontinent for centuries.”

A folio from the Bakhshali manuscript is on public display at the Science Museum in London as a centrepiece of the Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation exhibition.

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About Illuminating India

Illuminating India is a season of two major exhibitions, specially commissioned artworks and a high-profile events series opening during the British Council’s UK/India 2017 season: a celebration of the long-standing relationship between the UK and India which will see cultural events, exhibitions and activities taking place in both countries. It tells the stories of the Indian innovators and thinkers who have often been overlooked or written out of Western narratives of history.

One exhibition, Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation, celebrates India’s central role in the history of science and technology by exploring its influential contributions to subjects as diverse as space exploration, mathematics, communication and engineering.

Another exhibition, Illuminating India: Photography 1857 – 2017, is an ambitious and unprecedented survey of the technological and cultural development of the medium in India, examining photography’s changing role in charting the recent history of the country.

About the Science Museum

As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum and its world-class collection form an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement.

More information can be found at

About The Bagri Foundation

The Bagri Foundation is a UK registered charity working in the fields of education, relief work and culture. Through a multidisciplinary events programme, the Foundation aims to foster understanding of Asian cultures, artistic exchanges and enriching experiences. The Foundation believes in the power of collaboration and works with leading organisations, scholars and artists to encourage critical thinking, disseminate knowledge and offer platforms for creativity to blossom.

Find out more at

About UK/India 2017

UK/India 2017 is a year-long celebration of the long-standing relationship between India and the UK, which will see a vast programme of cultural exchange and activity take place in cities across both countries. Working with a huge number of partners and institutions, the British Council is developing a programme of cultural activity which will connect and inspire people in both countries, and strengthen and celebrate the UK and India’s cultural ties.

For more information on UK/India 2017 please visit

About Discover South Kensington

Discover South Kensington brings together the Science Museum and other leading cultural and educational organisations to promote innovation and learning. South Kensington is the home of science, arts and inspiration. Discovery is at the core of what happens here and there is so much to explore every day.


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