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Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 1856

The Royal Institution of Great Britain (often abbreviated as the Royal Institution or RI) is an organization devoted to scientific education and research, based in London. It was founded in 1799 by the leading British scientists of the age, including Henry Cavendish and its first president, George Finch, the 9th Earl of Winchilsea, for "diffusing the knowledge, and facilitating the general introduction, of useful mechanical inventions and improvements; and for teaching, by courses of philosophical lectures and experiments, the application of science to the common purposes of life." Much of its initial funding and the initial proposal for its founding were given by the Society for Bettering the Conditions and Improving the Comforts of the Poor, under the guidance of philanthropist Sir Thomas Bernard and American-born British scientist Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. Since its founding it has been based on Albemarle Street in Mayfair. Its Royal Charter was granted in 1800.



The Royal Institution ca. 1838

Throughout its history, the Institution has supported public engagement with science through a programme of lectures, many of which continue today. The most famous of these are the annual Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, founded by Michael Faraday.

The Institution has had an instrumental role in the advancement of British science since its founding. Notable scientists who have worked there include Sir Humphry Davy (who discovered sodium and potassium), Michael Faraday, Sir Lawrence Bragg (who won the Nobel prize for his work on x-ray diffraction), and more recently Lord George Porter. In the 19th century Faraday carried out much of the research which laid the groundwork for the practical exploitation of electricity at the Royal Institution. Fourteen of the Royal Institution's resident scientists have won Nobel Prizes. Ten chemical elements including sodium were discovered at the Institution, as well as the electric generator and the atomic structure of crystals.

The Royal Institution today

The exterior of the Royal Institution today

The Royal Institution today, is an organisation committed to "diffusing science for the common purposes of life". Membership is open to all, with no nomination procedure or academic requirements, on payment of an annual subscription. School membership is free.

The Council:

  • President: HRH The Duke of Kent
  • Chairman: Adrian de Ferranti
  • Hon Treasurer: Dr Gwynneth Flower
  • Hon Secretary: Prof Alan Maries
  • Chair of Audit Committee: Timothy Phillips
  • Council Members: Dr David Acheson, Dr Alun Anderson, Richard Melville Ballerand, Prof M K Banerjee, Dr Bernard Bulkin, Prof Clive Coen, Bob Eagle, Prof Malcolm Grant, Ralph Hulpert, Prof Lisa Jardine, Prof Sue Malcolm, Margaret Norman, Dr Rosalie Osmond, Dr Chris Potts, Lord (Martin) Rees. [1]

Until 8 January 2010, the Royal Institution was led by director Baroness (Susan) Greenfield, but following a review,[1] she was made redundant,[2] and subsequently announced that she would be suing for discrimination.[3]

The RI's official statement stated that "The Ri will continue to deliver its main charitable objectives under the direction of Chief Executive Officer, Chris Rofe and a talented senior team including Professor Quentin Pankhurst, the Director of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory, Dr Gail Cardew, the Head of Programmes and Professor Frank James, Head of Collections and Heritage."

The Institution's palatial home has been greatly enlarged and redeveloped since 1799, and is a Grade I listed building. As well as the famous Faraday Lecture Theatre, the building contains several function rooms, a substantial library and modern research facilities. It is now also home to the Science Media Centre, an independent organisation which seeks to promote understanding between scientists and the media.

The Institution (today abbreviated as the Ri) has a substantial public science programme and science for schools programme, holding over one hundred events per year on a wide variety of topics. The Christmas Lectures continue today as a series of five televised lectures aimed at children. The Friday Evening Discourses are weekly lectures given by eminent scientists, each limited to exactly one hour, a tradition started by Faraday. These lectures are open to all members of the Royal Institution and their guests, and are traditionally black tie events, though this is no longer compulsory. Many other events and lectures are held both at Albemarle Street and at other venues around the country.

Scientific research headed by Professor Quentin Pankhurst continues to be done under the auspices of the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory (DFRL), and indeed this is considered to be one of the UK's most notable labs in nano-science. In addition the new RI includes a public restaurant, provides scientific services to media companies and a major programme of events.

Fellows of the Royal Institution may use the initials FRI after their names. Members may use MRI and associate members may use AMRI after their names.

The Faraday Museum

In 1973 the Royal Institution opened a museum dedicated to Michael Faraday. It is in the main building in Albemarle Street and is open to the public during normal weekday office hours. There is a reconstruction of one of Faraday's laboratories and a second room containing further historic apparatus and other items associated with Faraday.

The Royal Institution of Australia

The Royal Institution of Australia, the only other Royal Institution in the world, was opened in Adelaide on 8th October 2009 by HRH, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.


See also

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′35″N 0°08′33″W / 51.5098°N 0.1425°W / 51.5098; -0.1425



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