About the CHRISTMAS LECTURES

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

  • 2014 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson
  • Christmas Lectures 2016

    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. 

In 2016 a commemorative CHRISTMAS LECTURES book, ‘13 Journeys through space and time’ was published for the first time.  A second book in the series, ‘11 Explorations into life on Earth’, with a foreword by Sir David Attenborough, was published in November 2017 and the third volume, ’10 Journeys through the human mind’ is due for publication in October 2019. 

The 2019 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

The 2019 Lectures with Hannah Fry will be recorded on 12, 14 and 17 December at the Ri and broadcast on BBC Four between Christmas and New Year. Tickets will be allocated via a ballot which opens in September and is available to Ri Patrons, Ri Members, Ri Young Members and UK registered schools in September 2019.

We will also be live streaming the recordings to a small number of venues around the UK. These venues will be announced at the beginning of October.

The award-winning online engagement team behind ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here’ will produce a Debate Kit for community groups and schools to explore some of the ethical and moral questions raised by the lectures, which we will also launch in October 2019.

And the I’m a Scientist team will allow members of the public and school groups to take part in live online chats in January 2020. Their questions about the science and mathematics behind the Lectures will be answered online by the Lecturer and a team of scientists, academics and industry professionals working in related fields.

To achieve the impact of 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.

Find out how you can help support the CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

The 2020 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

We are currently in the early stages of developing the concepts for the 2020 CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

The timetable is as follows:
March 2020: Youth Summit to explore young people’s viewpoints on the topics that we intend to discuss
August 2020: Announcement of the lecture topic and Lecturer
October 2020: Launch of the Debate Kit
December 2020: Recordings of the Lectures and TV broadcast
January 2021: I’m A Scientist Zone

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 currently digitising a 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 enter the ticket ballot for a chance to come to the live recordings of the Lectures in December. 

If you are involved in a community group you can download our debate kit, that will launch in October, to explore the moral and ethical aspects of the Lecture topic. 

If you are a teacher you can register your school for the I’m A Scientist Zone, or download our Debate Kit.

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. 

International

Each year we take versions of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES on tour.

This is part of our international programme which sees us take our world-leading science content to venues in the UK and around the world.

In 2019 we will be visiting Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

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