2016 Ri gift guide for science lovers

We help you through the gift-giving season with our suggestions of presents for scientists and science enthusiasts young and old.

  • Michael Faraday with a santa hat

    Feeling festive with Faraday.

    Credit: Royal Institution

The festive season is upon us, and that means the annual scramble to find suitable presents has begun. To lend a hand, we asked the Ri staff for their favourite science-related gift ideas. Sift through the suggestions below to identify the perfect evidence-based gift for that special science-loving someone.


There are more great popular science books out there than you can shake a test tube at, but here are a few of our favourites this year: 

13 journeys through time and space
Okay, so we’re starting with one of our own, but this is a stellar present for fans of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES, space, and science history. See how our understanding of the universe has evolved over time, through the lens of 13 iconic series of Lectures. And Ri Members and Patrons can get it at half price!

I contain multitudes
Few writers can tell a science story as well as Ed Yong. In this book he wades through the tens of trillions of microbes swarming around your body, and dives into the microbiome and the grand view of life it provides. (Before reading the book, warm up with his talk on ‘The microbes within us’ on our YouTube channel).

Bring back the king
De-extinction has been the stuff of sci-fi films for years, but the science is starting to catch up. Helen Pilcher goes in search of the perfect candidate for resurrection, pondering the practicalities and point along the way. Ri Members can get a 25% discount on this, and ‘Furry logic: The physics of animal life’, by Liz Kalaugher and Matin Durrani. Find out more about our member offers.

For centuries, humankind has asked ‘is there anyone out there’? And today, science asks it too. In this book Jim Al-Khalili gathers 20 nuggets of wisdom from top experts, covering every aspect of the search for extra-terrestrial life.

The idiot brain
We all have moments when we despair at our own brains. In this book, neuroscientist Dean Burnett revels in the human brain’s imperfections, and explores how they influence everything we do, say and experience. 

  • Photo of '13 journeys in time and space'

    Explore the history of space science through the lens of past CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

    Credit: Royal Institution

  • Ed Yong and his book

    Ed Yong dives into the microbiome.

    Credit: Penguin Random House, Ri

  • Jim Al Khalili and his book cover

    Jim Al-Khalili searches for life beyond Earth.

    Credit: Profile Books/Royal Institution


Gifts for young scientists

Technology will save us gift packs

We’re big fans of the Tech Will Save Us kits, and have used them in workshops in our L'Oréal Young Scientist Centre. There are a bunch of great options to get children tinkering with their world and making their own gadgets. 

Makey Makeys
These made an appearance in the 2014 CHRISTMAS LECTURES, when we made a keyboard out of jelly, and are a really fun ‘invention kit for the 21st century’ to help connect everyday objects with computers

Circuit scribe
This is endless fun. Draw electrical circuits with conductive ink, and see what you can create.

Build your own toys
At just £6, this ten-pin bowling alley project is a lovely introduction for how to build an electric circuit. And for a slightly larger project, we like the look of this ‘cars and boats’ kit too.

Ri Young Membership
Of course, by far the best gift for any young person bursting with science potential is Ri Young Membership. They’ll get free tickets to Family Fun Days at the Ri and 50% discount on all other talks, as well as exclusive access to the CHRISTMAS LECTURES ticket ballot. Add in bespoke year-round emails, discounts on educational workshops and an opportunity to write for the Ri blog, and it’s a present even Santa’s elves would be proud to give. 

  • Danielle George taking control with a jelly Makey Makey keyboard in the 2014 CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson


Gifts for grown up scientists

Maths Gear
We want pretty much everything they sell at Maths Gear, and there’s plenty here for people of all ages. We have particularly strong yearnings for the disco calculator and curious dice, and no Christmas would be complete without these mathematical crackers

Science homewares
Bring some science chic into your home with this scientific glassware-inspired kitchen kit. And make sure the kitchen chemist in your life is wearing the appropriate protective clothing with this dashing anatomical apron.

We couldn’t possibly recommend…
…this set of freely downloadable variant on the ever-controversial Cards Against Humanity, Cards against science

Ri Membership
It’s not just for kids! Gift membership to the Ri is the gift that keeps on giving, with free tickets to our monthly Discourses, half price tickets to year-round lectures, exclusive member offers and a whole lot more. The perfect gift for scientists, science lovers, and that person in your life that you know has a love of science just waiting to be ignited.

Ri Patronage
Of course, if you really love someone (or yourself), consider buying Ri Patronage for even more science nourishment. In addition to all the membership benefits, enjoy access to exclusive Ri Patron events, the chance to attend the annual Faraday Dinner, and the opportunity to join an active community of like-minded individuals. It's the ultimate gift for anyone, and you'd also be giving your favourite science charity a present too. Win win.

  • Polyhedral dice

    Make your Christmas Day Monopoly game infinitely more interesting.

    Credit: Maths Gear

  • Anatomical apron

    For experimental chefs.

    Credit: Magpie

A gift for everyone, for ever

Finally, this dippy bird has developed something of a cult following in the Ri offices. To find out why, open our online advent calendar on 8 December. Then buy one of these birds, because as the product description promises, it provides perpetual motion for perpetual fun*.

*Disclaimer: not really. Perpetual motion isn’t possible.

All of the products and ideas in this list were personal suggestions from Ri staff, and were not requested or paid for by any third parties.  

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