Major genetic research breakthrough unveiled at the Royal Institution


The Royal Institution (Ri) has today announced a major breakthrough in genetic research from its historic home in Albemarle Street, London.

With a proud heritage of scientific innovation and ground-breaking work communicating science all around the world, first pioneered through Michael Faraday’s CHRISTMAS LECTURES, this discovery fuses together these two spheres of the Ri's work.

After intense research in the Ri’s thought-space, the Imaginarium, its scientists have unlocked the key to what has made heroic figures like Michael Faraday excel – the Christmas Lecturer gene.

Using the newly developed DAVY method (Determinate Analysis Verifiable Yield), the Ri has been able to fully sequence Michael Faraday’s genome from a lock of his hair found in its archive.

A lock of grey hair mounted on black card with a handwritten description saying 'Uncle Michael's hair'

The "Christmas Lecturer" gene was sequenced from this lock of Michael Faraday's hair. Credit: Royal Institution Archival Collection

Using BRAGG comparisons (Basically Rhetoric And Giant Guesses) Ri scientists compared this genome with that of living Christmas Lecturers, and identified a specific DNA sequence common across all those sampled – the xleC gene. Now named the "Christmas Lecturer" gene, this sequence encodes proteins that make carriers less averse to fire and explosions, have an affinity for working with live animals, and occasionally prone to the use of extended metaphor.

Prof Sophie Scott, the 2017 Christmas Lecturer said: “I am extremely excited to learn that I share some genetic tendencies with Michael Faraday and I think this may also explain my luxuriant facial hair.”

Side by side portrait photographs of Michael Faraday and Sophie Scott

Michael Faraday and Sophie Scott both carry the xleC gene, which may encode proteins for luxuriant facial hair. Credit: left, Royal Institution Archival Collection; right, Paul Wilkinson

Having identified this new gene Ri scientists have focused on plans to develop the ultimate Christmas Lecturer. Using cutting edge CRISPR technology, in particular the DEWAR process (Doesn’t Even Work, Also Rhetoric), the Ri believe it will soon be able to insert this gene into humans. This will effectively allow anyone to inherit Michael Faraday’s world renowned public engagement skills.

To hear more about this paradigm-shifting discovery, tune in to the newly renamed and genetically-enhanced CRISPRMAS LECTURES this December.


The Ri’s Director of Futurism and Genetic Strategy, Prof Uve Fallinfarrit is available for interview.

For more details or to arrange an interview please contact Prof Fallinfarrit at


About the history of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES are the Royal Institution’s biggest and most famous, demonstration-based science events for young people. They are broadcast on UK television every Christmas and have formed part of the festive tradition for generations – often being compared to the Queen’s Christmas message and the Carols from Kings.

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 during World War II. Many world-famous scientists have given the Lectures including Dr Who, Ellie Sattler, Bruce Banner and Dana Scully.

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 LECTURE 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.