London Science Weekend: Medicine and Science in the Press - September 19, 2019 - Atlas Obscura Trips

London, United Kingdom

London Science Weekend: Medicine and Science in the Press

Join New York Times Journeys and Atlas Obscura for three days of scientific learning, special access, and exploration in London. Accompanied by Times journalists and scientific experts, meet people contributing to the history of medicine and scientific journalism. This two-track program includes panels, exclusive visits, and access to some of the best scientific minds available to concentrate on science reporting or medical history.

Choose among several small-group excursions focused on different aspects of medical history or science journalism for deeper dives into your areas of interest. Guided by medical historians, pharmacists, and anesthetists as well as Times reporters, get up close and hands on with Victorian pill-making contraptions, a surgical demonstration in an old operating theater, and a livery dinner at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Hear reporters and experts discuss current challenges and triumphs in their fields.


  • Atlas Obscura’s special access: Have exclusive after-hours access to the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret and attend a white-tie livery dinner at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.
  • New York Times journalists: Meet science journalists from The New York Times and experts from Atlas Obscura, who will join panels and accompany you to venues.
  • Workshops, excursions, and panels: Attend a panel of your choice on covering scientific breakthroughs, then and now; or on the changes and challenges in medical journalism over the past two centuries. Break into smaller groups for on-site workshops and field excursions focused on topics like artificial intelligence, reporting on science, and women in medicine.
  • Scientific comedy: Learn how funny science can be at a custom performance of “Science Showoff,” a comedy cabaret.

The Science Weekend is limited to 100 participants. We’ll break into smaller expert-led groups of 15 to 30 for field excursions (details below).


Please email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.

Courtesy of Benjamin Davies
Day 1
Science Can Be Funny

This evening, we’ll kick things off with a private reception. Enjoy a round of welcome drinks and be sure to take a closer look at the natural specimens on display. This is also a great opportunity to start getting to know some of your fellow travelers, whether they’ve joined from nearby or afar. We’ll then adjourn to another room for a an introduction to the weekend ahead, and to meet  the New York Times experts who are joining us.

After a relaxed, sit-down dinner and a chance to chat with the reporters, settle in for a uniquely curated performance of science comedy. Our friends at Science Showoff have arranged a special set designed around the themes of our program. Laugh and learn, as they say. 

Retire for the evening, or if you’ve still got energy, feel free to head out on the town before our full day tomorrow.

Courtesy of Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret
Day 2
Oratory and Operations

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast on your own before joining us for one of our two morning panels, taking place at 10:30 a.m. New York Times journalists will discuss the relationship between science and the press, with each panel focused around one of the themes of the weekend.

  • Panel A: Covering scientific breakthroughs, then and now.
  • Panel B: Changes and challenges in medical journalism over the past two centuries.

The panels, which include time for a Q&A, will wrap up around 12:30 p.m., giving you a chance to explore neighborhood lunch spots or hang out at the hotel before our afternoon experiences. The afternoon’s activities start at 2:30 p.m. and each last a couple of hours, depending on the pace of the group. Most of the six excursions (three in each of the trip’s themes) are offered both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Note that group sizes are limited. While everyone will be able to participate in two of them, spots on your excursions of choice are subject to availability.

Your choices for the science journalism track are these:

  • Darwin, as Reported Then and Now
  • Reporting on Today’s Artificial Intelligence
  • Reporting on Science for an Audience of (Mostly) Non-Scientists

Your choices for the history of medicine track are: 

  • A History of Anesthesia
  • Penicillin and Other Accidental Discoveries
  • Women in Medicine

Take some down time to rest, relax, and get ready for our private after-hours evening at the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret. Since the theatre’s capacity is limited, we will visit in two groups, the first at 6 p.m. and the second at 8:30 p.m., allowing guests to choose between taking dinner beforehand or afterwards.

Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted with a glass of wine and time to wander, before the surgical demonstration taking place in the historical operating theatre, which lasts about 45 minutes. Transportation back to the hotel will be available for those who’d like it.

Dinner and the rest of the night are on your own, though we’ll provide a list of recommendations for nearby restaurants and nightlife.

Courtesy of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Day 3
White Ties and Tales

This morning from 10:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m., you have another opportunity to delve into one of our six small-group experiences: (described above).

Your choices for the science journalism track are: 

  • Darwin, as Reported Then and Now
  • Reporting on Today’s Artificial Intelligence
  • Reporting on Science for an Audience of (Mostly) Non-Scientists

Your choices for the history of medicine track are: 

  • Pharmaceuticals: A Retrospective
  • Anatomical Drawing Workshop
  • Women in Medicine

The afternoon is free for lunch, rest, and independent explorations. Recommendations in the area will be provided, including the Museum of London, Natural History Museum, The British Museum, and Science Museum London. We also recommend that you allocate some time in the afternoon to get properly outfitted for our white-tie evening affair. While we encourage you to dress to the nines, black tie or your nicest equivalent are also acceptable dress. (Recommended places to rent suit-tails and gowns will be provided.)

At 6 p.m., we’ll depart the hotel for our grand Livery Dinner at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Guests will have time time to wander the historic space and mingle further with our participating reporters and experts.

A full sit-down dinner will then be served. After brief remarks by Society leadership, we’ll be treated to several Society traditions, including their “Loving Cup Ceremony.” The evening will end with plenty of toasts and lots of good cheer and a set of closing remarks, to celebrate the time we’ve spent learning together.

Our trip officially concludes tonight. Sunday morning, you can catch your flight (or a cab) home, extend your stay, or abandon everything and change your career path to one of the scientific fields we encountered in our three days together. We’re happy to assist with any of the three! 


Donald G. McNeil Jr. is a Science reporter at The Times who started in 1976 as a copy boy — a job made redundant by computer typesetting. Since 1997, he has covered global health and has reported from 60 countries. Most of his work has been about the struggle to bring modern medicine to poor people in remote villages, but he has also covered lighter subjects, including the Nobel Awards, South Africa’s ferociously competitive bird watchers and what it feels like to jump off the world’s highest bungee platform.

James Gorman, a science writer at large for The New York Times, has been an editor and reporter at The Times for 25 years. He writes about the natural world and the animals that inhabit it, and is the host of ScienceTake, a regular video series that explores the visual side of scientific research.

Denise Grady has been a reporter in the science news department of The New York Times since September 1998, and has also worked as a health editor there. She has written more than 1,000 articles about medicine and biology for The Times; edited two Times books, one on women’s health and one on alternative medicine; and wrote “Deadly Invaders,” a book about emerging viruses.

Benedict Carey has been a science writer for 35 years, covering medicine, genetics, biology and, over the past decade, brain and social science. He has been on the staff of magazines, including Health, and newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and for the past 15 years The New York Times. He is the author of “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens” and “Island of the Unknowns,” a math mystery for teenagers.

The Fine Print


  • All activities described in the itinerary, including a welcome evening, an expert panel discussion, two of the six optional workshops or excursions, one after-hours evening at the Old Operating Theatre, and a traditional Livery Dinner.
  • Opening reception, two dinners, and a glass of wine at the operating theatre.
  • Transportation between the hotel and event/excursion venues.
  • Opportunities to meet and mingle with various NYT journalists and experts, as well as scientific researchers and communicators.
  • Recommendations for science-themed activities and sites to check out on your own before or after the Science Weekend, curated by Atlas Obscura and The New York Times.


  • Breakfasts, lunches, and Friday’s dinner. (Recommendations will be provided.)
  • Accommodation in London; we have reserved a block of rooms at the CitizenM Hotel, which serves as a central program venue (further details below).
  • Flights or other transportation to and from London.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).


For those coming from out of town, please note that hotel accommodations are not included in the price of the Science Weekend. We recommend staying at the CitizenM Tower of London Hotel, which will serve as the venue and meeting point for several of the weekend’s activities. For details, and to reserve your room, email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857.


The weekend’s activities kick off at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 19 with a welcome reception, and wrap up around 9 p.m. on Saturday, September 21. Participants coming by air should plan to arrive in London by 3 p.m. on Thursday, September 19 and to depart London any time the morning of Sunday, September 22. For assistance with travel arrangements, please email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857.


Itineraries are subject to change. This Science Weekend has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always attempt to replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value.


This tour is fairly active; travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 2 to 4 miles over the course of each day and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. Some activities involve walking on uneven ground, and up and down steps.


You will be charged a $500 deposit to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final payment of $765 will be due by June 21, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. Please note that hotel accommodations are not included in the price of the Science Weekend.


This trip is part of a series of Science Weekends produced by Atlas Obscura and Times Journeys. Read about our  Los Angeles Science Weekend in May and stay tuned for more in the future. 

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