Postdoctoral Freer Fellowship in History & Philosophy of Science

To lead research into and communication about the Royal Institution’s two prominent lecturing programmes first established in 1825, the Christmas Lecture and Discourse programmes as part of our celebrations of their 200th anniversary.

Barlow - Aragon and Boleyn signatures
Image credit: Royal Institution

Accountable to: Head of Collections

Location: 21 Albemarle Street, London with the opportunity for some remote working 

Contract type: 2 year Fixed Term Contract, full-time, 35 hours per week

Salary: £39,000 - £40,500 per annum 

Additional £1,000 annual discretionary stipend for conference and archival research fees

The Fellowship is  funded by the Philip Freer Trust and is non-renewable.


The Royal Institution (Ri) created two lecture programmes in 1825 – CHRISTMAS LECTURES and Friday Evening Discourse, which continue to the present day.  Both these programmes are significant, not only for their longevity, but for the role they have played in science communication to audiences since 1825. The CHRISTMAS LECTURES were created specifically for a juvenile audience at a time when there was little scientific education for children. The Discourses were developed, before Peer Reviewing, as a way to highlight new and emerging scientific and cultural developments to the public, with many ‘firsts’ taking place in the Ri lecture as a result (e.g., display of photography, showing of moving images, recording and playback of sound, announcement of the discovery of the electron ).

While these anniversaries are uniquely the Ri’s, they have also gone beyond our walls. Many of the lectures from both programmes were undertaken by external scientists and figures from UK culture, rather than Ri employees, though the contribution of Faraday was very substantial. The programmes themselves reveal the nature of collaborative science and the need to work across organisations to inform the public about scientific developments.  They vividly show the development of the Ri’s unparalleled expertise in public scientific demonstration.

The start of the programmes in 1825 is very much the beginning of the story. The scientific and cultural developments that were demonstrated over the subsequent 200 years provide a wealth of material to be investigated, researched and celebrated.

About the role

This is an exciting new 2 year opportunity to complete publishable research, integrate into the history of science community and establish a programme of outreach activities.

If you are an outstanding early career researcher, this role will give you the opportunity to increase your research and outreach experience within a prominent science communication institution and develop your CV.

You will:

  • lead research into the Royal Institution’s two prominent lecturing programmes first established in 1825, the Christmas Lecture and Discourse programmes. 
  • communicate through academic networks and the production of papers/talks the history of science communication at the Royal Institution as part of our celebrations of the 200th anniversary of these lecture programmes.
  • work with colleagues and partners to assist with the development and implementation of outreach activities centred on these two anniversaries

This will involve:

  • Familiarising yourself with the history of the Christmas Lectures and Discourses and the relevant Ri archival resources; this would include adding to and annotating the index and timeline of lectures and discourses and assisting with the creation of the index of experimental demonstrations in the two programmes. 
  • Assisting in the organisation of an Advisory Group of experts drawn from UK history of science and science communication disciplines.
  • Helping to develop activities/events and suggest further ideas, including partnerships with academic institutions and possible sponsorship projects.  
  • Develop a network of organisations/institutions including universities which relate to the Ri’s history of science communication through Christmas Lectures and Discourses. Facilitate any potential joint projects or opportunities that may arise.
  • Assisting and facilitating cross-departmental design and creation of celebratory and outreach activities; including the creation of web pages on the history of the two programmes, social media projects, Ri based lectures and workshops, temporary exhibition material, print materials 
  • Publicising the significance and role of the development of science communication over the last 200 years at the Ri through the Christmas Lectures and Discourses programmes, engaging with the history of science and science communication communities.  This might take the form of conference attendance, poster sessions, presentations, articles in journals such as History Today, society newsletters 

This is an exciting opportunity to be involved in highlighting the history of the Ri and its place in science and culture and to work in a dynamic and exciting organisation.

About you

This role offers an outstanding early career opportunity for strengthening your experience in working across academic, scientific, and public institutions to assist in delivering a range of programmes and funded opportunities.

As successful applicant, you must be a researcher from the history of science community. You are eligible if you are a British citizen/national, regardless of where your doctorate was obtained. You may also apply if you have a doctorate from a UK university, but are not a British citizen, if you have the right to work in the UK.

You must be of ‘Early Career Status’ meaning that you must apply within 5 years of the date of your successful viva voce examination (between 1 April 2019 and 1 April 2024).

We may consider applicants with greater academic experience if you can demonstrate significant connection with public outreach in science communication.

About the Ri

The Royal Institution (Ri) is an independent charity which has been connecting people with science for over 200 years. The Ri has inspired generations of scientists over the years whose discoveries have helped shape our modern world.

The Ri has a clear vision that ‘Science is for Everyone’ and it is our belief that everyone should have equitable access to science. Through our packed event programme available in person or online, our UK schools outreach and social impact initiatives, and our global digital reach including almost 1.5m YouTube subscribers we achieve our mission by connecting people with scientists to explore science together.

In our historic Grade I listed Mayfair building, discoveries were made that literally changed the world. Today it acts as base for the Ri team and tenants as well as a busy and vibrant event space for private and corporate events. 

How to apply

Please download the job description and personal specification below and email the following to

  • an up to date CV
  • Covering letter indicating how your previous experience relates to the role's person specification and the communication of science history.
  • A plan and proposal for an event/lecture organised to celebrate an aspect of the 200th anniversaries of the Christmas Lectures and Discourses or the history of science communication at the Ri. This plan can be accompanied by a video, not more than 2 minutes long.

All written application materials should be in PDF format and all files should be clearly labeled to include your name and title of the document.

Application Deadline: Tuesday 14 May 2024 but we will consider late applications

Interviews are planned for: w/c 3 June 2024

If you have any questions you would like to ask before applying for this Fellowship please contact Charlotte New, Head of Heritage and Collections (


Postdoctoral Freer Fellowship downloads