The natural history of a sunbeam – Light and life (1976)

George Porter

Sir George Porter explores the role the sun plays in creating new life.

Watch time: 57:17
George Porter at the Ri theatre desk, from above
Credit: Royal Institution

Lecture 2 – Life and light

The relationship between light and life is explored in this 1976 CHRISTMAS LECTURE from chemist Sir George Porter.  

George explains the theory of life spontaneously generating. He shows the audience how these theories were rejected with various demos including the design of Louis Pasteur’s swing neck flask.  

Using fossils and the visual aid of a clock George explains how old the earth is, and how molecules from sunshine helped form the very basis of life during this period.  


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.