Iconic objects list

Explore iconic objects and original apparatus from the Ri Collection, including key items from the amazing individuals who have researched, lectured and lived at the Ri.

Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile

Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile

The first electrical battery, invented by Volta in 1800 in Genoa, Italy. This voltaic pile, made before 1813, was presented to Michael Faraday by Volta in 1814.

George Porter's laser

George Porter's laser

Developed in 1964, Porter’s first ruby laser was used to speed up chemical reactions by short bursts of energy.

Humphry Davy mining lamp

Humphry Davy's miners' safety lamp

The first ever prototype of Davy’s miner’s safety lamp. Created in 1815, it was designed to be lit safely for miners to use without allowing the heat from the flame to explode the concentration of methane gas often found as miners dug deeper.

Humphry Davy's original chemical element samples.

Humphry Davy's original samples

Dating from the early 1800’s, these small glass jars are filled with some of Davy’s original element samples of sodium, calcium, magnesium and chlorine from when they were first isolated.

Dewar flask

James Dewar's vacuum flask

Dewar’s first ever vacuum flask. Created in 1892 to hold liquefied gases at extremely low temperatures, this object is the forerunner of the Thermos flask.

John Tyndall's blue sky apparatus

John Tyndall's blue sky apparatus

Have you ever wondered why the sky is blue? The answer was first discovered over 150 years ago right here at the Royal Institution using this tube.

John Tyndall’s radiant heat apparatus

John Tyndall’s radiant heat apparatus

In 1859 Tyndall used a collection of apparatus, including this tube to measure the absorptive powers of gases in the atmosphere. The result of his experiments was the discovery of Greenhouse Gases and their effects on the earth.

Michael Faraday's motor

Michael Faraday's electric magnetic rotation apparatus (motor)

The first surviving Faraday apparatus, dating from 1822, which demonstrates his work in magnetic rotation. Faraday used this mercury bath to transform electrical energy into mechanical energy, creating the first electric motor.

Michael Faraday's generator

Michael Faraday's generator

Faraday had created the first transformer in August 1831. A few months later he designed and made this simple piece of apparatus based on his ring, developing the first ever electric generator.

Michael Faraday Gold Colloids sample

Michael Faraday's gold colloids

These liquids are some of the first examples of metallic gold colloids, made by Michael Faraday over 150 years ago

iron filings

Michael Faraday's iron filings

Faraday created a number of iron filing diagrams in 1851 to demonstrate magnetic lines of force.

Michael Faraday's magnetic spark apparatus

Michael Faraday's magnetic spark apparatus

Created in 1831 and used to show that magnetism could directly produce a spark, this apparatus provided further evidence for Faraday's view of the inter-convertibility of all forces.

Faraday magneto-optical apparatus

Michael Faraday's magneto-optical apparatus

The apparatus, consisting of an electromagnet, used by Michael Faraday in a ground-breaking experiment showing that light and glass are affected by magnetism.

Michael Faraday's ring-coil apparatus

Michael Faraday's ring-coil apparatus

Made by Faraday in his laboratory in the basement of the Royal Institution in August 1831, thus creating the first ever electric transformer.

Michael Faraday's sample of benzene, Paul Wilkinson

Michael Faraday's sample of benzene

Isolated for the first time in 1825 this hydrocarbon is now an important raw material in manufacturing dyes, explosives, rubber, phenol and therapeutic chemicals.

Faraday's voltammeter

Michael Faraday's voltammeter

The way we quantify electricity was first devised by Michael Faraday using this piece of apparatus, known as a voltammeter.

Lysozyme model

Model of lysozyme

The first model which demonstrates the structure of an enzyme, providing an explanation for how enzymes speed up a chemical reaction in terms of its physical structures. First mapped by David Chilton Phillips & Louise Johnson’s research team in 1965 by x-ray diffraction methods.

Close up of the Braggs' spectrometer

William Bragg's spectrometer

The first ionization spectrometer designed and constructed by William Henry Bragg in 1912-13, used to measure variations in scattering angles of crystals in order to determine their structures. This is the basis of Crystallography.