Masterclass history

Discover more about the exciting history of Ri Masterclasses spanning over four decades.

  • Christopher Zeeman

    Christopher Zeeman presents the 1978 CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

    Credit: Royal Institution

  • Christopher Zeeman presents the 1978 CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

    Christopher Zeeman presents the 1978 CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

    Credit: Royal Institution

  • Christopher Zeeman

    Christopher Zeeman and maths education at the Ri.

    Credit: Royal Institution


The Mathematics Masterclasses started from the interest sparked by Professor Sir Christopher Zeeman's CHRISTMAS LECTURES 'Mathematics into pictures' televised in 1978. These lectures are now available to watch on the Ri Channel.

In 1981, the first secondary Mathematics Masterclasses were set up offering keen London children the opportunity to be enthused by and discover new mathematics in a fun, engaging, yet mathematically-rich session. 

Primary Mathematics Mastercalsses lauched in 1998, with Secondary Engineering Masterclasses starting in 2010 and Secondary Computer Science Masterclasses in 2014. We now have over 140 series of Ri Masterclasses around the country. 

Nearly 90,000 students have attended our Masterclasses since 1981.



If you have been to Masterclasses in the past, we would be fascinated to hear your story. Please get in touch by emailing us on

If you have recently attended Masterclasses and are still in education you can find ideas on how to continue your interest in these subjects on our page for past Masterclass attendees, including information on our Masterclass Alumni Newsletter for those who have attended Secondary Masterclasses in the past few years.

30th anniversary

In 2011, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the start of the Masterclasses with a number of events taking place throughout the year, including special anniversary Masterclasses delivered around the UK.

On Friday, 28 January 2011, the Friday Evening Discourse, entitled 'Mathematics into pictures, 30 years on' focused on the story of the Masterclasses, which are now run by over a hundred groups around the country.

You can listen to the audio of this event below:

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