Remembering Queen Elizabeth II through the Lens of STEM

Her Majesty the Queen sadly passed away on 8th September 2022. As the longest serving British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II was also the longest recorded of any female head of state in history.

Hannah Harrison-Hughes, the GDST’s Trust Consultant Teacher for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), looks back at her 70-year reign through the lens of various STEM milestones across the 20th and 21st centuries.


1953: In her DNA

Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne upon the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952. Her coronation took place on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey.

Between these two events, on 28 February 1953, James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced they had determined the double-helix structure of DNA. On 9 November 2016 Queen Elizabeth officially opened the Francis Crick Institute in London.


1956: In Power

On 17 October 1956 Queen Elizabeth II opened the world’s first full-scale nuclear power station, at Calder Hall in Cumberland.

At 12:16pm she pulled the lever directing electricity from the new power station into the National Grid for the first time.


1958: Queen Calling

On 5th December 1958 Queen Elizabeth II made the first ever ‘Subscriber Trunk Dialled’ telephone call from Bristol to Edinburgh.

This changed the way telephone calls were made. Instead of asking the operator to connect a call, for the first time users were able to dial the number themselves. This new automated system revolutionised telephone use, allowing payphones to be introduced soon afterwards.


1967: Among the Stars

On 12 December 1967, Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the Isaac Newton Telescope at the Royal Greenwich Observatory.



1969: Elizabeth to Victoria

On 7 March 1969 Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the new Victoria Line of the London Underground, travelling from Oxford Circus to Victoria.

Construction had begun in 1962, with three metres of 21-foot diameter tunnels being dug by hand every day.


queen first email1976: Royal eMail

On 26 March 1976, Queen Elizabeth II sent an email using to users of a group of computers known as ‘ARPANET’.

Her message, announced to all ARPANET users that the ‘Coral 66’ language, used by the Ministry of Defence, was now available for them to use.


1977: Queen on Deck

The queen reached supersonic speed travelling on the Concorde in 1977 and took a tour of the flight deck.



1983: In Your Pocket

In 1983, Queen Elizabeth II knighted Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor of the pocket calculator, the ZX Spectrum computer and the TV80 pocket television.



1994: Sir Roger

In 1994, Sir Roger Penrose was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II For his contributions to mathematics and physics. In 2000 he was further recognised with an invitation to join the exclusive Order of Merit – a group limited to 24 living members at any time.


2004: HoloQueen

In 2004 Chris Levine created the first holographic portrait of the queen using a high resolution digital camera moving along a track, taking 200 pictures in 8 seconds.



2007: Video Call to Space

On a visit to NASA’s Goddard Flight Centre, Maryland, USA, Queen Elizabeth II ended her tour of the satellite building facilities with a video call with astronauts on the International Space Station.


The GDST gives its thanks to Her Majesty the Queen for seven decades of inspirational female leadership. As a collection of all-girls schools for 150 years, many GDST students have also been inspired by those women honoured by the Queen for their services to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

These have included: Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Astrophysicist who discovered Pulsars; Dame Pratibha Gai, Materials Chemist and Electron Microscopist who co-invented the atomic resolution environmental transmission electron microscope allowing visualisation of processes on the atomic scale; Dame Bridget Ogilvie, Biologist whose parasitology research explored how parasitic worms evade the body’s immune response; Adisa Azapagic MBE, Professor of Sustainable Chemical Engineering who masterminded the CCaLC carbon footprinting tool; and Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, Space Scientist, Science Communicator and BBC presenter.