The natural history of a sunbeam – First light (1976)

Sir George Porter

Sir George Porter takes an in-depth look at how light is structured.

Watch time: 59:21
George Porter pointing at a rainbow beam of light on a white screen
Credit: Royal Institution

Lecture 1 – First light

Sir George Porter explores light's structure in this 1976 CHRISTMAS LECTURE packed with live demos.

Have you ever wondered why the sky is blue or why sunsets are red? Porter explains how colour is created through light 'scattering' which John Tyndall discovered.

Porter also demonstrates how light is made up of frequency, waves and molecules. He presents Thomas Young’s light source experiment on a grand scale using light and cameras. 


British scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry Sir George Porter explains the power of light, from the role it plays in stimulating life to supplying energy to our homes, in this selection of engaging and entertaining CHRISTMAS LECTURES from 1976.  

In this series of six videos filmed at the Ri, Sir George Porter, former Director of the Ri and Baron Porter of Luddenham, takes the audience through a plethora of demonstrations and explanations on the importance of sunbeams.