The impetus for this exhibition was the bequest to The Oxford Museum of the History of Science by an eccentric polymath called Ellen Ann Wilmott (1858-1934). Included are two of her turning lathes and her own woodwork — plus the evidence of her reputation as a considerable botanist and gardener, well illustrated by the black-and-white slides of plants, that she hand coloured.

And reference is made to Eryngium giganteum, an invasive, thistly plant, the seeds of which Miss Wilmott would scatter in gardens of which she disapproved. Commonly known as Miss Wilmott’s Ghost, the seeds take a year to mature, and by that time Miss Wilmott would have long since moved on. The seeds are on sale for latter-day Wilmotts to experiment with.

The cartoons and spoofs in the exhibition include New Discoveries in PNEUMATIKS — or an Experimental Lecture in the Power of Air (pictured), a 1802 piece by James Gilray, of a lecturer administering laughing gas to a contemporary lawyer and politician, John Hippisley. The explosive nature of the experiment at the rear end of said Hippisley and its subsequent impact is writ clear on the cartooned faces of those at the wrong end of Hippisley at the wrong time.

The exhibition is huge fun. It is also beautifully presented and highly informative on a wide range of subjects from Charles Babbage’s failures to an intricate Chinese typewriter-cum-printer, and from an astrolabe reputed to have belonged to Nostradamus to a Japanese clockwork fly-trap. And it does lead one to wonder what whacky and erudite exhibition we can expect next from this very special museum.

Eccentricity is at The Oxford Museum of the History of Science and runs until October 16 and is open Tuesday to Sunday.