Learn about the people, places and things represented in our collection, which documents 250 years of discoveries and innovations that began in Manchester and went on to influence the world.
Science, industry and society
Manchester has always been a meeting place for scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Together, their ideas and inventions have transformed the way we live and work.
'What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow'.
John Dalton—A New Atomic Theory
The world's first industrial city
Manchester was the original 'shock city' of the Industrial Revolution. The early 19th century saw a huge building boom and a population explosion that changed life in the city with breath-taking speed.
'Hast thou heard, with sound ears, the awakening of a Manchester... the rushing-off of its thousand mills, like the boom of an Atlantic tide, ten thousand times ten-thousand spools and spindles all set humming there, - it is perhaps…sublime as a Niagara or more so'.
— Thomas Carlyle
Manchester is a global city. It has always been a place of international exchange, where people, goods and ideas come and go, enriching life and trade in the city and beyond.
'Never since the world began, was there a town like it, in its outward appearance, its wonderful activity, its mercantile and manufacturing prosperity, and its remarkable moral and political phenomena…'
— Johann Georg Kohl, 1844
Beyer, Peacock & Co. Ltd—From Manchester to the World
City of ideas
Following its post-industrial slump, Manchester has worked hard to regenerate its image and enterprise. 21st century Manchester is becoming a hub of high-tech businesses and a hive of creative industries.
'The word Manchester became a synonym for energy and freedom and the right to do and to think without shackles'.
— Judge Parry, 1912
Our workplaces and homes are full of technologies that make our everyday lives easier. Our consumer power can influence the way products are designed and developed before they make it the market.
'Manchester invented the foundations of the modern world—and that's no exaggeration'.
— Brian Cox
The health issues facing Manchester's citizens have changed radically over the years. The city has become a leading centre of medical research in response to the evolving needs of our public health.
'It is an appalling fact that, of all who are born of the labouring classes in Manchester, more than 57% die before they attain five years of age'.
— Edwin Chadwick, 1842