Communications, transport, industry, engineering, energy and medicine: how have scientific and technological inventions changed our lives? Explore the history of innovation in Scotland and across the world through interactive games and thought-provoking displays.

Our family-friendly Explore gallery on Level 1 brings science to life with hands-on games and interactive exhibits. Don't miss Dolly the sheep: she’s a science superstar and one of our most iconic objects. You can even try out your own genetic experiments – fancy making a glowing pig?

Next to Explore is Making It, which looks at how manufacturing and engineering have changed our lives, from early industry to 3D printing. And don't forget to look up to see an aerial history of aviation stunningly suspended from the ceiling, including Percy Pilcher's record breaking Hawk glider.

In Flight

Above: Aeroplanes in the In Flight display. Pilcher's Hawk can be seen at the top.

On Level 3, Communicate tells the story of telecommunications, from semaphore to smart phones. Will you spot your first mobile phone in a case? Scientific innovation and invention are celebrated in Technology by Design: discover the evolution of the bicycle and design your own bike, marvel at an Apple 1 computer from 1976 and discover Edinburgh's key role in the history of prosthetics.

Model boats in Technology by Design

Above: Working models in Technology by Design. Photo © Peter Dibdin.

Moving up to Level 5, Enquire explores how scientists have sought to answer fundamental questions. Follow in the steps of pioneers such as Sir James Black by designing a clinical drug trial, and encounter a giant copper accelerating cavity from CERN’s LEP collider. After all, who doesn’t like a dash of drama with their science history?

Giant copper accelerating cavity from CERN

Above: Giant copper accelerating cavity from CERN.

Need some exercise? Find out how much power you can generate walking in the giant hamster wheel in Energise. Build your own wind farm, make waves and keep a home cosy as you learn about the sources, generation and uses of energy.

Hamster wheel

Above: The human hamster wheel in Energise. Photo © Stewart Attwood.

Header image © Peter Dibdin.

On display

Bicycles at National Museums Scotland

Journey through a brief history of the early bicycle and discover some of our modern cycling treasures.

Boulton & Watt engine

This Boulton & Watt engine was the first full-sized engine acquired for the collections and is one of the oldest surviving beam engines in the world.

CERN accelerating cavity

This copper radio frequency accelerating cavity played a part in scientific history when it was used in the Large Electron Positron (LEP) collider at CERN from 1989 to 1995.

Chloroform inhalers

These chloroform inhalers allowed Victorian patients to have surgery without being drunk, held down or knocked out

Corliss engine working model

Built in a dedicated model-making workshop during the late 1870s, this working model is a scale version of the famed Corliss steam engine.


Meet Cybraphon, the moody autonomous robot band in a box created by Edinburgh-based artist collective FOUND.

Dunlop tyre

This revolutionary pneumatic tyre was donated to the museum by its maker, John Boyd Dunlop, in 1910. But who really invented it?

EMAS: The first bionic arm

Scotland Creates volunteer Aileen Miller explains why this pioneering Edinburgh Modular Arm System (EMAS) is so awesome

Enigma encoding machine

This Enigma machine is of the type used by the German Navy on submarines to encode messages during World War II. Discover the secrets of this famous code maker here.

Jacquard loom

This handloom was used for weaving silk at Stonehouse in Lanarkshire in the 19th century. It has a Jacquard attachment which allows complex patterns to be woven.

Jompy water boiler

Developed here in Scotland in 2010, this sustainable technology is helping to bring clean drinking water to the developing world

MinION DNA sequencing machine

Science and Technology volunteer Susanne Hotvedt introduces this powerful piece of small technology.

Percy Pilcher's Hawk glider

Pioneering Percy Pilcher could have been the first person ever to fly. But why did the glider he designed never take off?

Pitch drop demonstration

Possibly the oldest in the world, this pitch drop demonstration is also one of the slowest science experiments ever created

Sir James Black's Nobel Prize medal

Sir James Black was one of the greatest Scottish scientists of the modern era. His work in medicine and pharmacology has improved the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

Wylam Dilly

Wylam Dilly, one of the world’s two oldest surviving locomotives, celebrated her bicentenary in 2013. Built in 1813, she used to pull coal along the Wylam Wagonway to the river, near Newcastle upon Tyne.