Fire and explosions: from coal gas to the cosmos

6.00pm to 7.15pm, Saturday 19 January

The Theatre

The Royal Institution of Great Britain GB United Kingdom W1S 4BS 21 Albemarle Street London

This event has already taken place

  • A fire blazes on the Strand in London. Illustration from the early 1800s.

    Credit: Public Domain, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Standard £16


Concession £10


Members and Patrons £7

Event description

Claire Benson covers a collection of stories on fire & explosion science in the Victorian era; including the dangerous nature of the first plastics, how the creation of explosives actually saved lives, and how the invention of the Bunsen burner led to us understanding the make-up and expansion of the universe. Claire shows how fire is often a common thread through development and disaster in society. 

This event is particularly suitable for ages 7+.

About the speaker

Dr Claire M. Benson is a fire and explosion scientist with over 10 years’ experience researching and lecturing on explosions and fire safety at London South Bank University. She has a PhD in chemical engineering, specialising in high-pressure oxygen system safety. Her research areas include fire suppression, fire and arson investigation and risk management. Her current research work covers fire suppression in aircraft cargo holds (EU horizon2020 EFFICIENT), hydrogen hazards in aircraft propulsion systems (EU Horizon2020 ENABLEH2), and the failures of building & planning control to ensure adequate fire safety. She has conducted research for the London Fire Brigade, Sellafield Ltd and the Ministry of Defence, and collaborated with the British Standards Institution, the Health and Safety Executive, Research Institute of Sweden, and numerous universities, and aerospace and industrial engineering companies.


The doors will open at approximately 5.30pm, with a prompt start at 6.00pm.

Latecomers will be admitted into the gallery.

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