24 Jul 2013
Retro light fitting or model of a virus? In the latest of our looks at the story behind an image from the MRC archive, Ellen Charman finds out how this collection of giant ping pong balls is linked to Rosalind Franklin’s less well-known research understanding the structure of viruses.
This image, taken at Birkbeck College in 1958, shows the sculptor John Ernest dwarfed by one of his models of the poliovirus, which is seemingly made from giant pingpong balls.
The five-foot model, together with one of the tobacco mosaic virus, was exhibited at the International Science Pavilion of the Brussels’ World Exhibition in 1958, the first major World’s Fair after World War 2. Earlier versions had indeed been made out of ping pong balls and plastic bicycle handlebar grips. [...]