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Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

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Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures are a series of lectures on a single topic, which have been held at the Royal Institution in London each year since 1825, missing 1939–42 because of the Second World War. The lectures present scientific subjects to a general audience, including young people, in an informative and entertaining manner. Michael Faraday initiated the first Christmas Lecture series in 1825. This came at a time when organised education for young people was scarce. Faraday presented a total of nineteen series in all.



The Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures were first held in 1825, and have continued on an annual basis since then except during the Second World War. They have been hosted each year at the Royal Institution itself, except in 1929 and between 2005–2006, each time due to refurbishment of the building. They were created by Michael Faraday, and he went on to host the lecture season on nineteen occasions. Other notable lecturers have included Desmond Morris (1964), Sir David Attenborough (1973), Heinz Wolff (1975), Carl Sagan (1977), George Porter (1985), Richard Dawkins (1991), Baroness Susan Greenfield (1994), Dame Nancy Rothwell (1998), Monica Grady (2003), Sue Hartley (2009), Alison Woollard (2013), and Danielle George (2014).

The props for the lectures are designed and created by the Ri's science demonstration technician, a post which Faraday previously held. The technician is informed of the general subject of the lectures during spring, but the specifics aren't settled until September, with the recordings made in mid-December. By 2009, the lectures had expanded to a series of five sessions each year. However, in 2010 the Royal Institution cut back on costs as it had become over £2 million in debt. These cost cutting measures included the budget allotted to the Christmas Lectures. This resulted in a reduction from five sessions to three.


The Christmas Lectures were first televised in 1936 on the BBC's fledgling Television Service. They were broadcast on BBC Two from 1966–1999 and Channel 4 from 2000–2004. In 2000 one of the lectures was broadcast live for the first time. Following the end of Channel 4's contract to broadcast the lectures, there were concerns that they might simply be dropped from scheduling as the channel was negotiating with the Royal Institution over potential changes to the format, while the BBC announced that "The BBC will not show the lectures again, because it feels the broadcasting environment has moved on in the last four years." Channel Five subsequently agreed to show the lectures from 2005–2008, an announcement which was met with derision from academics. The lectures were broadcast on More4 in 2009. In 2010, the lectures returned to the BBC after a ten-year absence from the broadcaster, and have been shown on BBC Four each year since then.

List of Christmas lectures

The following is a complete list of the Christmas Lectures as of December 2016:


Royal Institution Christmas Lectures Wikipedia

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