Famed scientist and TV personality Brian Cox is teaming up with the BBC and a number of UK institutions and charities to launch a year-long season of science and technology programming under the broadcaster’s iconic Tomorrow’s World banner, resurrected as the masthead for the initiative.
The Science Museum Group, Wellcome, The Royal Society and the Open University are joining the initiative, aimed at ensuring the UK remains a driving force for technology and innovation in the years to come.
The BBC will collaborate with the science-based attractions, academic institutions and personalities to produce more than 40 hours of television and radio programmes, podcasts and digital offerings under the Tomorrow’s World banner.
Cox hopes the 12-month Tomorrow’s World programming will help to address a growing distrust of science and public wariness of new technologies.
“The West, not just Britain, faces a deep crisis of confidence, which threatens to turn us backwards, to devalue knowledge, expertise and wisdom and to retreat into what I’d call a destructive relativism where all ideas are equal and freed from challenge,” he tells the Radio Times. “Who should fight for Britain to continue to be the best place in the world to do science as it’s been, I would say, for over 350 years? In my view it falls, in part, to the institutions of Britain – the partners in this endeavour – but importantly it also falls to the BBC.”
Inventions in the vaults
The Science Museum Group, which consists of the London Science Museum, Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, The National Railway Museum in York and The National Media Museum in Bradford, will air a live show titled Britain’s Greatest Invention from its venues, with a public vote determining which inventions have been of most influence and importance in their lifetime.
Among the artefacts found in the Science Museum vaults that are up for nomination are James Harrison’s fridge, Alexander Fleming’s antibiotics, John Logie Baird’s television and Frank Whittle’s jet engine. The programme will be presented by British mathematician Hannah Fry.
“The marriage of our world-class collections, expertise and rich programming with the BBC’s worldwide reach is a truly exciting prospect,” says Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group.
“The Tomorrow’s World partnership is already bearing fruit with Britain’s Greatest Inventions. BBC’s cameras have exclusive access to our stores to explore our incredible objects and reveal the stories of some of the greatest inventions in history.”
Wellcome, which runs the Wellcome Collection medical museum and library in London, is also participating in order to help improve people’s understanding of health and modern health issues.
Simon Chaplin, director of culture and society, Wellcome, says: “We’ll be working with Tomorrow’s World on a project which makes science accessible and contemporary. Wellcome will be creating original content which will bring different perspectives to themes including mental health, sleep and contagion based on current research and recent discoveries.”
Curated content and digital hub
A digital hub will be at the heart of the campaign, bringing together some of the UK’s most respected science institutions for the first time. Curated daily, it will feature content from across the group, aimed at inspiring engagement with science.
BBC director general Tony Hall says: “Science is changing our world at an extraordinary rate. We want to engage and inspire on a scale that is unprecedented.”
Professor Stephen Hawking is also involved, with a BBC2 show that shares his theory that the human race needs to colonise another planet. Other programming will look at astronaut training, green energy, being transgender, superbugs and more.
Cox says: “The 21st-century Tomorrow’s World represents the institutions of Britain coming together to inspire current and future generations. It’s our commitment to convince them to embrace the opportunities that sciences brings, to foster the spirit of curiosity and tolerance and to embrace the unknown, not in fear but in wonder.”
Tomorrow’s World was a popular BBC series that looked at new technologies and scientific breakthroughs. It aired for almost 40 years, from 1965 until 2003.