Born in April 1926, the late Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed a life and reign of enormous technological, social and scientific advancement. She was not afraid of technology or science.
Despite this life of change, Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, did not hesitate to associate themselves with scientific and technological progress. Here are four areas that changed dramatically during Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime.
29e In May 1953, Edmund Percival Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first mountaineers to summit Mount Everest. The news was kept secret from the public until the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation – with the media calling it a ‘gift to the queen’.
It was considered one of the most exciting and difficult undertakings conquered at the time, but only sixteen years later – in July 1969 – three astronauts flew to the Moon as part of Apollo 11, including two walking on the surface.
A coin-sized silicon disc filled with messages from more than 70 heads of state was left on the Moon, the Queen Elizabeth Section wrote simply “On behalf of the British people, I salute the skills and the courage that brought man to the moon. May this effort increase the knowledge and well-being of humanity.
In October of the same year, the Queen and Prince Phillip met the three astronauts at Buckingham Palace to congratulate them in person.
The queen and her husband did not hesitate to be associated with scientific and technological progress. Queen Elizabeth 11 sent her first email in 1977 and personally got to know Peter Higgs of Higgs Boson fame.
Higgs initially turned down the offer of a knighthood as he felt they were being used for political purposes, but the Queen gave him the Companion of Honor which he accepted because he was told said they were rewards from the only queen. They were the same age.
With the launch of Hubble in 1990 and JWST this year, we are looking deeper into distant worlds than ever before. During Queen Elizabeth’s last years, SpaceX and other companies regularly sent reusable rockets into space – a feat thought impossible for much of his life.
The way we communicate changed almost completely during Elizabeth II’s lifetime. As a child, the queen made him first public speech in 1940 during World War II. It was on BBC radio – a service that only started in 1922, four years before he was born.
His coronation in 1953 was a major television event when televisions were a relatively new thing – the British Science Museum suggests that “In the two months leading up to the coronation, UK viewers bought more televisions than in any previous comparable period.”
During World War II, English code breakers used early computers to help win the war, and “personal computers” did not enter homes or workplaces until the second half of his life.
Then came the Internet. In March 1976, the Queen visited a telecommunications research facility in Malvern, England, and used ARPANET – a military computer network linking universities, government agencies and defense contractors – to send a ” e-mail”, long before it was used as it is today.
“There was an early kind of internet, but it didn’t work the way most people think of the internet today,” says Alan Dorin, an associate professor at Monash University who specializes in the history of technology. .
The late Peter Kirstein, dubbed ‘the European father of the internet’, set up the Queen’s first official email account, HME2, and walked her through the process of sending her first message.
His username was also very interesting – “HME2”.
“Today, we think of a ‘protocol’ that’s how computers communicate… It didn’t in the 70s. So that email would have been sent over some sort of limited version of the internet.
When the Queen was a child, boats were the only way to travel long distances. Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fredrick Noonan disappeared in 1937 – when Queen Elizabeth was just 12.
Even in the 1950s, when longer international trips could take place (with several stops to refuel), the Queen’s first visit to Australia (and many other Pacific Commonwealth countries) in 1954 happened on a ship called the SS Gothic.
However, that didn’t mean she hadn’t used air travel before. When Edward became King in 1936, “The King’s Flight” was formed as the world’s first Head of State Aviation Unit. It became ‘The Queen’s Flight’ after her death.
In 1952, she traveled from the United Kingdom to Kenya, in a British Overseas Airways Corporation plane called Argonaut, with Prince Phillip.
However, these flights could only ever be relatively short. It wasn’t until 1989 that the first Qantas flight traveled non-stop from London to Sydney.
She’s been an absolute jet-setter throughout her life, with an expert suggesting she’s traveled enough to make it come full circle Earth 42 times.
Queen Elizabeth’s life also existed through an incredible shift in Earth’s climate.
Although it was in 1896 that a paper by a Swedish scientist predicted that carbon dioxide levels could alter the planet’s temperature, it wasn’t until 1938 – when the queen was just 12 years – that a British scientist has connected carbon dioxide increases in Earth’s atmosphere with global warming.
During his lifetime, the climate changed irreversibly, culminating in the hottest summer on record in England this year – a match with the summer of 2018.
“The effects of climate change went from almost imperceptible in the 1950s,” says Dorin. “And now we’re in for bushfires and floods.”
“Climate change was a future issue.”
While the new king, Charles III, is known as a staunch conservationist and Price Philip is the chairman of the World Wide Fund for Nature, Queen Elizabeth’s more political neutrality has only gone so far in her later life.
In 2021, we heard her say that she was ‘irritated’ by those talking but not acting on climate action ahead of the UN’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.
At the climate talks, she later said in a video message that many hoped that “the time for words has now passed to the time for action”.