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The history of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES

Join Frank James and Rupert Cole as they reveal how the CHRISTMAS LECTURES made television history in a free lunchtime talk illustrated with vintage television footage.

Royal Institution

Event description

The first CHRISTMAS LECTURE was delivered in December 1825 by the Royal Institution’s Professor of Mechanics, John Millington. Two years later Michael Faraday gave his first of nineteen series of lectures, culminating with his 1860/61 series ‘The Chemical History of a Candle’ which produced perhaps the most popular science book ever published. As the Royal Institution’s flagship lecture series it was an obvious candidate for broadcasting by the BBC’s fledging television service in 1936. In the post-1945 period several lectures were televised, but it was not until the 1966/7 series that they started being broadcast annually. These two talks, illustrated by clips, experiments and perhaps the odd explosion, will consider the development, content and impact of these lectures. 

About the speakers

Frank James, Professor of the History of Science at the Royal Institution, has edited the complete extant correspondence of Michael Faraday and is currently working on the background to Humphry Davy’s career.

Rupert Cole is a PhD student in the History of Science, jointly at the Royal Institution and University College London. His research is specifically concerned with the recent history of the Royal Institution and its role in communicating science to the public.

Demonstration Room

Pop-up Cafe

After much anticipation, the Ri is proud to announce the completion of a new event space on the first floor. Formerly known as the Prep Room, since the early 19th century, this space has been used to develop scientific demonstrations enjoyed by generations of children attending the CHRISTMAS LECTURES. Why not pop along before the talk or stay a while afterwards to enjoy a tea or coffee and relax in our new Demonstration Room?

It is now a bright and contemporary event space suitable for presentations, drinks receptions and dinners. It is available for hire either on its own or as part of the Ri Venue’s First Floor Package -