Laurence's Walks in London
Laurence's Walks in London
Laurence's Walks in London
Laurence's Walks in London

Your Guide to London's Fascinating History of Science, Invention, Medicine & Intelligence

Laurence Scales, specialist London guide, writer and speaker brings the history of invention, discovery, medicine and intelligence to life for visitors and locals in his unusual London walking tours. Of wide cultural interest, the tours will satisfy the scientifically minded too. Find out how we got where we are today.

'If you’re headed to London, here’s some blasphemous advice. Put the kings and queens, art museums, and Shakespeare on hold, and instead jump down a rabbit hole into London’s unparalleled history of science.' Boston Globe 2016

Scheduled and Private Walking Tours, Talks and Articles

I am a specialist but my tours and articles have very wide appeal. Through advantages such as my volunteer work in the archives at the Royal Institution I have access to an exceptional range of stories, not just about 'the usual suspects'. I have sifted masses of detail and extracted the best stories to interest, surprise, amuse and inform. It makes an unusual London tour.

Surprising life stories, curious personalities and adventures, forgotten by-ways of history and startling achievements are my passion. I started with an interest in scientists and inventors and it soon led me into fields such as espionage, social history and how London led the world with its pioneering infrastructure.

 

It is my mission to represent a fascinating side of British culture, largely neglected by other guides. My walking tours cover subject matter that others do not (and vice versa). They offer an alternative and unusual view of London.

Unusual London Walking Tours

My walking tours for individuals and small groups visit the homes and haunts of remarkable characters from history. But instead of the artists, nobles and politicians I bring you the ingenious, enlightened and eccentric, typically scientists, inventors, engineers and spies.

 

It's like a Hollywood Stars' Homes bus tour. But it's not in Hollywood, the stars are from science and there's no bus!

Aimed at a general audience these walking tours in central London or in one of London's 'villages' feature attractive architecture and quiet and pleasant stretches in back streets, parks or along the water. They cover social history and the often surprising evolution of London's infrastructure.

 

I can also cater for older school students and university students.

Find a different sort of history in London.

  • Boffins in coffins at Brompton
  • Secret ink at Mayfair
  • Scientific fraud at Notting Hill
  • Dinosaur dung at Westminster
  • Weaponry at Woolwich Royal Arsenal

Do you have a special interest? Whether it is chemistry, microscopes, air conditioning, communication or just something unusual I should be able to devise a tour.

Science Tourism in London

Some of My Unusual London Walking Tours

 

London War Walk - Nine Boffins

Royal Arsenal Woolwich - Guns, cordite, etc.

London Spy Tour - Deceit, gadgets, code

Royal Society Tour - Unofficial walking tour

Royal Institution Tour - Unofficial walking tour

Cemetery Tours - 'Boffins in Coffins'

Geeky Ladies - Practical women in history

On Woolwich Common

Location

Walks feature Local Heroes (and a few villains) in Mayfair, Kensington, Lambeth, Chelsea, Belgravia, Notting Hill, Bayswater, Holland Park, Richmond, Blackheath, Smithfield, Marylebone and Wimbledon.

 

These unusual London walking tours, mostly within zones 1-4 of the Travelcard area, last about 2 hours, but there are some longer walks which involve a rest stop.  Click here for a tour menu.  For mobility aspects see General Information.

Locations of Laurence's Walks

Geeky London - A Timeline

1641 Binary code, Holborn

1784 Air rage, West Brompton
1786 Surgery at 10 Downing St
1797 Weighing the world, Clapham
1799 High speed data, Southwark
1852 Gauging beauty, Kensington
1892 Decorative electrics, Bayswater
1915 Inventing the gas mask, Pimlico
1940 Battling the beams, Richmond
1965 Sniffing out spies, Lambeth

Photo: Mike Gould

Intended Audience

  • You like walking or exploring around town,
  • You have perhaps visited London's famous sites before and want something more unusual,
  • You are interested in history but perhaps missed out on the sciences,
  • You like science and engineering,
  • OR, like many of my customers, you do not think of yourself as a science tourist but you have a thirst for culture and like to see and hear something new and interesting.

 

A Science Map of London - Here is a taster

London Spy Tours

London is the city of James Bond and 'The Circus'. Fiction was often based on fact. Often fact was stranger. Espionage takes the same kind of ingenuity as invention and scientific discovery. I feature real stories of espionage, codes, sabotage, gadgets, covert operations, secret weapons, and deception.

London's Top 10 Inventors

(But I could go on... There are so many to choose from.)

  1. Alexander Cumming invented the U-Bend to keep toilets from smelling.
  2. Humphry Davy’s miners’ safety lamp boosted the industrial revolution.
  3. Michael Faraday’s experiments yielded not just the electric motor, but also the generator and transformer.
  4. Alexander Fleming’s chance observation that mould prevented the growth of bacterial cultures enabled Florey and Chain to make antibiotics.
  5. John Harrison made clocks for navigators but his 18th century ideas have led to a new super accurate mechanical clock in the 21st century.
  6. Godfrey Hounsfield developed the body scanners.
  7. Joseph Jackson Lister's achromatic microscope lensspurred a new understanding of biology and particularly microbiology.
  8. Christopher Merret combined glass making knowledge with secondary fermentation and has a claim to be the father of Champagne
  9. William Perkin's mauve dye found accidentally began a whole industry.
  10. William Playfair invented the pie chart and other popular graphs.

The whole of London is a science museum. Many key events in the history of science happened in London including the formation of the Royal Society, the invention of the electric motor, and imaging the structure of DNA.

'There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know.' - Ambrose Bierce

Famous London Scientists

Science history is global history. London is home to world famous institutions like the Royal Society (founded 1660), the Royal Institution (founded 1799), the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. Many world famous scientists* and inventors have also lived here including Charles Babbage, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Alexander Fleming, Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, Alan Turing and James Clerk Maxwell.

 

I have also taken upon myself a mission 'to make known the notable unknowns'. Literally hundreds of people with significant and enjoyable life stories (bizarre and esoteric if you prefer) have been forgotten. Outside my walking tours these are not easily accessible to visitors, even via the heritage blue plaques.

 

I cover all sorts with science or enlightenment in their story: explorers, pathologists, code breakers, cooks, camouflage artists, manufacturers etc.

My style is not taken from the textbook. I offer colourful stories of invention, experiment, discovery and adventure. They are put into context and told in appropriate locations in a great city. Many also appeal to a sense of humour.

*The term 'scientist' dates from 1834 and describes those who use the scientific method, although it took a century to catch on. Prior to that the term 'natural philosopher' was used to describe those who sought to describe nature (space and matter) by any means available.

Private Tours

Please contact me.

Next Public Tour

Friday 30th December 2016: 'Time-Bombs, Trivia and Tibet.' (For those that know me it's the usual eclectic mix!)  Tickets here.

Please check transport before travel especially at weekends.

Last Minute Changes

to public tours

<<Will be posted here>>

Contact

For queries, please email

laurence@laurenceswalks.co.uk

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