In the archives

Tales from the Ri’s historic collections. Explore the intriguing, sometimes unexpected stories of past Ri scientists, iconic objects, and documents.

Happy 200th birthday, John Tyndall!

Posted by
Sir Roland Jackson
Date posted
31.07.2020
cartoon of Tyndall lecturing in the Ri lecture theatre with apparatus scattered around him on the desk and hundreds of people watching him

On the 200th anniversary of John Tyndall's birth, Sir Roland Jackson looks back at the life and work of the great natural philosopher.

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Kathleen Lonsdale in letters

Posted by
Date posted
05.03.2020
Kathleen Lonsdale at a desk in 1960. Credit Crown Copyright.

Discover more about the challenges Lonsdale faced in her work as a scientist during the war, highlighted with letters from our archives by the Ri's Document Manager Jane Harrison.

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Causes of accidental explosions in the 19th century

Posted by
Laurence Scales
Date posted
19.02.2020

How Ri lecturers sought to investigate and avoid explosive disasters in the 19th century by Ri Heritage volunteer Laurence Scales.

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Hot air in parliament: ventilation in the 19th century

Posted by
Laurence Scales
Date posted
06.02.2020

Laurence Scales, Heritage and Collections volunteer at the Ri, was inspired by a lecture given on heating and ventilation in May 2018 by Dr Shaun Fitzgerald to look into the history of this unexpectedly colourful subject, as told through Victorian lectures in the Ri archives.

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Who discovered the greenhouse effect?

Posted by
Sir Roland Jackson
Date posted
17.05.2019
Drawn diagram for setting up experiment

John Tyndall set the foundation for our modern understanding of the greenhouse effect, climate change, meteorology, and weather. But did he 'discover' it?

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Shipwrecks, science and maritime safety

Posted by
Laurence Scales
Date posted
20.02.2019

The 19th century saw more than its fair share of shipwrecks, alongside scientific and technological leaps in maritime safety. Here our Heritage and Collections volunteer, Laurence Scales, surfaces some of these stories from our archives.

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Fire, fire – the science of 19th century firefighting

Posted by
Laurence Scales
Date posted
22.01.2019

The 19th century saw more than its fair share of major fires. Here our Heritage and Collections volunteer Laurence Scales, uncovers these burning stories from our archive.

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Globe of the Moon

Posted by
Zofia Wyszomirska-Noga
Date posted
25.07.2018
papier mache globe of the moon

Zofia Wyszomirska-Noga made a very special discovery in the Royal Institution archives. This is the story of the Globe of the Moon.

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We don't need no education, do we?

Posted by
Laurence Scales
Date posted
17.04.2018

Ri Heritage and Collections volunteer, Laurence Scales, takes a look at some highs and lows of 19th century school education as seen through some surprising RI lectures of the time.

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MOOCing Humphry Davy

Posted by
Frank James
Date posted
28.09.2017
Humphry Davy painting

Professor Frank James reflects upon the experience of bringing Humphry Davy's work to life in a new online course

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