The Great Debate
On 30 June 1860, the Museum hosted a clash of ideologies that has become known as the Great Debate.
Even before the collections were fully installed, or the architectural decorations completed, the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its 30th annual meeting to mark the opening of the building, then known as the University Museum. It was at this event that Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and Thomas Huxley, a biologist from London, went head-to-head in a debate about one of the most controversial ideas of the 19th century – Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.
The Museum architecture
The construction of the Museum was significant in the development of 19th-century architecture, the history of the University of Oxford and in the study and presentation of science in England.
The Museum is as spectacular today as when it opened in 1860. As a striking example of Victorian neo-Gothic architecture, the building's style was strongly influenced by the ideas of 19th-century art critic John Ruskin. Ruskin believed that architecture should be shaped by the energies of the natural world, and thanks to his connections with a number of eminent Pre-Raphaelite artists, the Museum's design and decoration now stand as a prime example of the Pre-Raphaelite vision of science and art.