Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Object 1. Horse & Rider

Horse & Rider, ca. 600 BCE

What: Public Lecture, on History & Philosophy of Science in 20 Objects

When: Tuesday 26th January, 6:15 – 7:15pm, followed by drinks reception

Where: Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre, Michael Sadler Building

What is the history and philosophy of science? What can it tell us about the way we see ourselves and the world around us? How can objects help us to understand what science is, and has been in the past?

In the first of our public lectures join Dr Mike Finn as we begin with an unusual object, an ancient horse and rider figurine dating approximately from the 7th century BCE. The figurine will act as a starting point for thinking about some of the developments in science over the last 2,000 years, and key themes that will be explored further in future lectures.

Lecture video:


Below is a blogpost about the lecture, written by MA student Polina Merkulova

HPS in 20 Objects Lecture 1: horse and rider

IMG_0497-300x300The public lecture series ‘History and Philosophy of Science in 20 Objects’ commenced on 26 January with the talk by the Director of the Museum of HPS Dr Mike Finn. The lecture, attended by more than 90 people, was dedicated to the oldest object from the museum’s collection – the horse and rider figurine.

This statuette dates back to approximately 7 century BCE and represents a kind of sculpture typical to ancient Cyprus. Such objects were often found in tombs, suggesting that the figurine of man with a horse – a universal symbol of wealth and power – was an offering to the dead or to the gods.

Having started the discussion on what the study of objects can offer a historian of science, Dr Finn used the figurine to illustrate that the objects have multiple meanings and uses; humans have always been curious about human nature; objects and images helps us understand the intangible; and that science looks backwards as well as forwards constantly relating to the ideas of the past.


He took the audience on the time travelling adventure spanning across more than 2000 years, showing how “the image of the horse and rider so inspiring for the ancient Mediterranean sculpture-makers has inspired thinkers from ancient times to the near present day in understanding of what we call the mind or the soul”.

Most celebrated Western thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to Sigmund Freud appealed to the metaphor of a horse rider or charioteer to talk about the structure and dynamic of human psyche. Indeed, Freud, who shared the modern obsession with the Classical period, in his large collection of antiquities had a figurine very similar to the one in our museum.

The conversation about the uses of objects in understanding what science is, and has been in the past will continue in future lectures of the series.

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