Connecting people with science for 200 years

The Royal Institution was founded in a meeting at the Soho Square house of the President of the Royal Society of LondonJoseph Banks, on 7 March 1799.

From the very start, their purpose was to introduce new technologies and teach science to the general public through lectures and demonstrations.

Their Royal Charter was granted in 1800, and they became a membership organisation in 1810, a tradition which is still going strong today. We were converted from a private organisation, owned by a small number of proprietors, to a public institution by an Act of Parliament.

Over the last two centuries, our building and labs have been home to groundbreaking science engagement, including the world-famous CHRISTMAS LECTURES and scientists, such as Michael Faraday, whose discoveries have helped shape the modern world.

Event timeline
  • 1800 – our first lecture
    Our first lecture was delivered in 1800 by Thomas Garnett, who was also the first Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution
  • 1816 – chemical lectures for medical students established
    William Thomas Brande established chemical lectures for medical students from St George’s Hospital in 1816, which were held in basement laboratories containing a small seating area
  • 1825 – Discourses began
    It’s actually difficult to name a definite date for the beginning of Discourses; they evolved over time, and didn’t immediately get called Discourses, but Michael Faraday gave a lecture in 1825 that it’s fair to call the first Discourse. Discourses started as informal evenings for members in the laboratory but soon the audiences became so large that the format shifted to the theatre
  • 1825 – CHRISTMAS LECTURES began
  • 1862 – research formally becomes one of the Ri’s activities
    Research was formally adopted as one of the Ri’s activities in 1862. Up to this point, the professors of the Ri had informally carried out their research, but their official role was to give lectures and demonstrations
  • 1896 – the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory
    Ludwig Mond endowed the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory (DFRL). The endowment included the purchase of 20 Albemarle Street, which as converted to house the new laboratories and offices
  • 1956 – Schools Lectures established
    School Lectures were established in 1956 by Lawrence Bragg. In the 10 years between their founding and Bragg retiring, 200,000 children attended schools lectures at the Ri
  • 1973 – the Faraday Museum and Archive were opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II
  • 1981 – Ri Mathematics Masterclasses began
    Ri Mathematics Masterclasses were established after the interest sparked by Professor Sir Christopher Zeeman’s CHRISTMAS LECTURES, Mathematics into Pictures’, televised in 1978
  • 1998 – Directorships of the Royal Institution and the DFRL are separated
  • 2008 – The L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre is created