About the CHRISTMAS LECTURES

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES are engaging and mind-expanding television programmes for all ages but particularly children and young adults.

  • Alice Roberts pointing what looks like a wand at a burning surface

    Dr Alice Roberts presenting the 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson
  • Christmas Lectures 2016

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson
  • 2014 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson
  • Dr Peter Wothers presents The Modern Alchemist in 2012. 

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson

History

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES have been inspiring children and adults alike since 1825. The Lectures were initiated by Michael Faraday at a time when organised education for young people was scarce. He presented 19 series himself, establishing an exciting new way of presenting science to young people. 

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES have continued annually since the 1825 series, stopping only for four years during World War II. Many world-famous scientists have given the Lectures including Nobel Prize winners William and Lawrence Bragg, Sir David Attenborough, Carl Sagan and Dame Nancy Rothwell. 

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES were first broadcast on television by the BBC in 1936 which makes them the world’s oldest science TV series. They have been broadcast on television every year since 1966 on the BBC and in later years on Channel Five, Channel Four and more4. In 2010, the Lectures returned to BBC Four. 

Three commemorative CHRISTMAS LECTURES books are available from Amazon and all good booksellers:

13 journeys through space and time
11 explorations into life on Earth’, with a foreword by Sir David Attenborough
10 voyages through the human mind’ 

The 2021 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

The 2021 Lectures with Jonathan Van-Tam will be recorded on 14, 16 and 18 December at the Ri and broadcast on BBC Four and iPlayer between Christmas and New Year. As Public Health England guidance now allows for a live audience, tickets will be allocated via a ballot which will open soon and is available to Ri PatronsRi Members and Ri Young Members. Tickets will also be made available for free to children from schools in disadvantaged areas of the UK, which the Ri has been supporting throughout the year.

Should a change in Public Health England guidance mean a live audience is no longer possible, then we will explore options to livestream the recordings to Young Members and schools as we did in 2020.

We will also be live streaming the recordings to a small number of other venues around the UK. These venues will be announced in due course.

To produce the CHRISTMAS LECTURES we are entirely reliant on the funding we raise through ticket sales, donations and sponsorship. This enables the impact of our work to reach far beyond our famous lecture theatre, because we receive no guaranteed support for the Lectures, either from government or through endowments, to cover the costs each year. This year, with the Ri’s income still significantly reduced in the aftermath of the necessary Covid-19 restrictions, support is still vitally important.

Find out how you can help support the CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

Watch

After broadcast, the Lectures go online for everyone in the world to watch for free right here on the Ri's website. We’re also digitising our large archive of past Lectures, which will regularly be added to the catalogue.

Get involved

Each year the CHRISTMAS LECTURES TV programme is the centrepiece of a national conversation about the place of science in our lives. You can be part of it in any or all of the following ways: 

If you are an Ri Member, Ri Young Member or Ri Patron you can come to the live recordings of the Lectures in December.

Support the CHRISTMAS LECTURES by contacting our Development team. 

Learn about the history of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES in our books exploring iconic Lectures and Lecturers of the past. Examining what we thought we knew then and what has been discovered since, each book is packed full of Ri archive content such as handwritten letters, photographs and transcripts. 

Help unearth missing Sir David Attenborough footage and other iconic science lectures by searching long-forgotten attics or little-used store cupboards to unearth missing episodes. In total 31 episodes broadcast between 1966 and 1973 are missing, including footage of Sir David Attenborough not seen since it was first broadcast live nearly 50 years ago. 

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES is a registered trademark. Contact xmaslecs@ri.ac.uk for more information.

Become a member

Benefit from free and better than half-price tickets, special offers and access to the CHRISTMAS LECTURES ticket ballot.

Join todayGo