Support us | Visit us | Contact us
Public history of science lecture by Hugh Aldersey-Williams
From the moment of their discovery, each of the chemical elements has embarked on a journey into our culture. Over millennia and decades, they have gained meaning through encounter and manipulation. Those long known, such as gold, silver, iron and sulphur, all found in the Bible, have largely settled associations with immortality, virginity, strength and evil. The arts exploit, renew and modify these meanings often in surprising ways. Most of us are familiar with sodium chiefly from streetlighting. But why has this distinctive illumination been seized upon by contemporary writers as emblematic of dystopian decay? Why is its message so different from the light of neon? Why is mercury a fitting barrier between this world and the next? And why is europium incorporated into every euro banknote?
Book prize event 6 Mar
History of science lecture 7 Mar
For more please see the Events diary.
Enter your address to receive regular emails about public events at the Royal Society.
Full listing of our events and exhibitions.
Watch videos of past events.
Most of our talks are free and open to the public.
We host major conferences for leading scientists.
Explore our annual science exhibition
Contact the events team.