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Join us for a festive evening celebrating the history of the Royal Society and the remarkable scientific artefacts and stories housed in its extensive, world-class archives.

Scroll down for the full event programme.

This year’s theme, a Victorian Christmas, is inspired by the many extraordinary scientific discoveries made in the Victorian era, and the romance associated with this holiday and with science during the nineteenth century.

You will be treated to a special performance from a spectacular new science-themed dance piece, Sakura, produced by Sisters Grimm. Hear the story behind this collaboration of science and art as told by Professor Nicky Clayton FRS (University of Cambridge and Scientist in Residence at Rambert) and Mark Baldwin OBE (former artistic director at Rambert).

The programme will include talks on science in Victorian fairy tales, astronomy in the 19th century, and Michael Faraday’s Christmas candle lecture, as well as festive activities such as printmaking greeting cards and mince pie molecular gastronomy.

You will also have the unique opportunity to explore the beautiful Carlton House Terrace in all its festive glory by candlelight.

Attending the event

  • Over-18s only
  • We are operating a Challenge 25 policy on the door and you may be required to show a valid form of ID to enter the event
  • Free to attend
  • No registration required
  • Doors will open at 18:30 and admission will be on a first-come, first-served basis
  • This event may be popular and entry cannot be guaranteed
  • Travel and accessibility information

The Royal Society’s aim is to make its events accessible to as many people as possible. This is why our events are free and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Event programme

Science meets dance 7pm, 8pm, 9pm

Celebrating 10 years of collaboration, Professor Nicky Clayton and choreographer Mark Baldwin present a special showcase of their critically-acclaimed Darwin-inspired dance performance. 

Festive food hall 6.30pm – 9.30pm

‘Tis the season to fill up on festive treats so visit our food hall to enjoy a special selection of Christmas food and drink, including out-of-this-world mince pies and bespoke cocktail creations.

Hidden treasures 6.30pm – 9.30pm

Transform into a knight of the brush and sketch some of the amazing artefacts from the Royal Society archives in this still life drawing workshop.

The nativity of greeting cards 6.30pm – 9.30pm

Travel back to Christmas 1843 when the first greeting cards were commercially produced by Sir Henry Doyle and create your own striking screen printed cards of images from the Royal Society’s collections.

Scientists under the spotlight 6.45pm – 9.15pm, every 30 minutes

Discover the lives of some of the most celebrated thinkers of the Victorian era, with live appearances from Charles Darwin, Mary Anning, Michael Faraday and Ada Lovelace.

Captured in time 7pm – 7.45pm

Take a look back in time to discover the art of Victorian photography and the processes used to create some of the period’s defining images.

Optical toys 8.30pm – 9.15pm

Science meets play in the form of the humble thaumatrope. Step into the shoes of the Victorian child, or child at heart, and design and build your very own version of these optical toys.

Victorian stories of spirits and the supernatural 7pm, 8.15pm, 9pm

Haunting histories and terrifying tales, Dr Melissa Dickson shares her expertise in 19th century literature and reads excerpts from some of the most bone-chilling examples of Victorian ghost stories.

Bubble, bubble, Boys and spheres 7.30pm – 8pm 

Mathematician Dr James Grime will reveal how bubbles and soap film can solve problems and create beautiful shapes, with surprising applications in computing, electronics, architecture and beyond.

Tales of science past 7pm – 9pm, every 30 minutes

Uncover the untold secrets of some of the science greats with this drop-in story-corner, run by our expert library team.

Explore the building 6.30pm – 10pm

Why not take the chance to wander around the Society and take inspiration from the portraits, artefacts and exhibits on display?

Lightning lectures

Perfect for getting a taste of Victorian science, why not catch one or more of these electrifying fifteen minute talks?

“On the Chemical History of a Candle” 7pm

Discover Michael Faraday’s lasting legacy, including the incredible impact of his Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution, with Professor Frank James.

Trick of the eye 7.30pm

Neil Monteiro reveals the secrets behind some of the most dazzling Victorian optical illusions, from the excitement of Pepper’s ghost to the wonder of the magic lantern.

Scientific shows and the Victorian Christmas 8pm

From science-themed pantomimes and exhibitions to oratorios with electrical demonstrations, join the Science Museum’s Dr Rupert Cole to unveil how scientific amusements became fashionable during Victorian London’s festive season.  

Architecture of the heavens 8.30pm

Journey to the stars with Dr James Geach and explore the night sky as 19th century astronomers did. This talk includes an exclusive show and tell with artefacts from the Royal Society archives.