Science in American Life

April 27, 1994 – November 27, 2011

National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, West Wing

See on Map Floor Plan

This exhibition examines the interaction between science and society from 1876 to the present. Through artifacts, historical photographs, computer interactives, and multimedia technology, the exhibition brings to life many of the scientific issues, controversies, and achievements that have shaped modern American culture.

Major topics addressed include the founding of a pioneering chemical laboratory in an American university, the use of experimental psychology and intelligence testing, science as a promoter and entertainer at the 1939 World's Fair, industrial science and the invention of nylon, the mobilization of science for World War II and atomic bomb research in the Manhattan Project, the growth of environmental awareness, and the new frontiers of biotechnology.

Highlights include:
• a re-creation of an 1876 chemical laboratory
• a family fallout shelter
• more than 1,000 scientific instruments

Robots on the Road: Stanley
Nov. 21, 2008 - Jan. 8, 2012
This experimental robot car named Stanley, a modified Volkswagen Touareg, offers a glimpse into the future of "smart" cars. It can drive itself without a human in the driver's seat or at remote controls; it sees the road ahead through roof-mounted laser sensors, video cameras, radar, and GPS resources and uses sophisticated computers to navigate the environment and avoid obstacles. Stanley was the winner of the 2005 Grand Challenge, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). (in the Looking Ahead Gallery)

HIV and AIDS Thirty Years Ago
June 3, 2011 - Jan. 8, 2012
This showcase examines the public health, scientific, and political responses in the early phase (1981-87) of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic through photographs, magazine covers, and other graphics. Also on view is equipment Dr. Jay Levy used to isolate the virus in his lab at the University of California, San Francisco; a copy of the Surgeon General’s 1986 report presenting the government’s position; samples of the drugs AZT and Retrovir; and public health information pamphlets from AIDS service organizations. The website americanhistory.si.edu/hivaids.