Rather than returning home immediately after the SIS tour, we decided to spend a few days in Portugal before facing the trip home.

Portugal is much cheaper than Switzerland, and just as nice in its own way. Coimbra is a very old university town that is also a major tourist attraction, partly for the university buildings, which include a chapel completely lined with the blue and white tiles so popular here, and the neatest library I have seen, large and tall and dim with thousands of gold tooled books in gilded shelves, and harbouring a colony of bats that are supposed to eat any insects that blunder in. There is a university prison downstairs.


Less popular than the library is the university science museum. It is headquartered in a palatial building that was originally the chemistry school


Inside there was a  exhibition on 'Light and Matter', with a nice mix of old instruments and modern interactives suitable for school kids, housed in the old chemistry laboratories. Some of the old lab benches have been preserved and the old tile and oak fume cupboards are used as display cases. In another part, there is an exhibition on the old links between Portugal and the Orient, especially the Jesuit astronomers who went to China and sold them one of the few things the Chinese wanted from the west ie more accurate astronomical calculations based on Kepler's Rudolphine tables. Somewhat related was a 1692 decree that the teaching of mathematics in Portugal should be improved. One result was the production of wall tiles for teaching mathematics:

But across the road was what we had come to see. In its original position is the old Physics lecture theatre from 1772,

with suitably uncomfortable seats, and next door, two large rooms full of lecture demonstration apparatus from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Most of the items were readily identifiable from the pretty minimal labelling, but others were more obscure:

Although I could log in to eduroam with my iPhone, for some reason I could not find the excellent website


(probably just impatience and the tiny screen) so had to go ignorant.