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Royal Society lates: science fiction

History of science

Event audio

February
102020

18:30 - 22:00

Location

The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG

Overview

Catch up on an evening celebrating science fiction and the Royal Society. Discover the remarkable scientific artefacts and stories housed in our extensive, world-class archives. 

Science has long inspired writers to imagine what's possible and craft stories about the future, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to George Orwell's 1984. Explore the Royal Society's rich history, uncovering what scientists of the past thought about how we would be living now, and how accurate their predictions were. 

Wooden chest given to the Royal Society by our first Treasurer, William Ball FRS, in 1663.

In case you missed it

You can listen to audio recordings of the following talks by clicking the links below.

Beyond Discworld.mp3
Elois vs Morlocks: Darwinism and Victorian Sci-Fi.mp3
The science of Frankenstein.mp3
Waves, particles and pronouns.mp3 

Events and activities

Beyond Discworld

19:30

Terry Pratchett's Discworld series has inspired authors, screen writers, and individuals to create their own stories and their own fictional worlds. But how can a flat planet balanced on the backs of elephants, who stand on the back of a giant turtle drifting through space link to science?

Join BBC CrowdScience's Marnie Chesterton as she quizzes the man behind the Science of Discworld, mathematician and Honorary Wizard of the Unseen University, Professor Ian Stewart FRS, and hear about where he thinks science fits in with fiction.

Listen to an audio recording of this talk (Beyond Discworld.mp3).

Royal Society lates: science fiction

An exclusive late-night opening of the Royal Society's historical home in central London to explore how science has shaped fiction.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
Black and white illustration of a Morlock carrying a woman from H.G. Wells' The Time Machine published in 1950.

Elois vs Morlocks: Darwinism and Victorian Sci-Fi

18:50

In celebration of the 125th anniversary of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, Professor Matthew Beaumont will explore Darwinian thought and challenges to the more naively optimistic theories of evolutionary change from the late-Victorian era.

You can listen to an audio recording of this talk (Elois vs Morlocks: Darwinism and Victorian Sci-Fi.mp3).

The science of Frankenstein

20:20 and 21:20

Venture back to a time of fear, when people worried their corpses might be robbed from their graves for use in medical experiments, or worse, they might be buried alive. Join Professor Sharon Ruston to discuss the science of life and death in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

You can listen to an audio recording of this talk (The science of Frankenstein.mp3).

Wood cut print showing galvinisation experiements from 1804. Panels show electrocution of human corpses to envoke movement.
Photograph of Virginia Woolfe with her race resting on her hand circa 1927. The photograph is in sepia tones and she wears a fur stole.

Waves, particles and pronouns

20:50

In the early twentieth century, physicists were exploring quantum ideas, where particles and waves were no longer one or the other; they could be both. Dr Rachel Crossland will discuss Virginia Woolf's use of both/and models and her portrayal of gender in her 1928 novel, Orlando.

This event was in celebration of LGBT+ History month.

You can listen to an audio recording of this talk (Waves, particles and pronouns.mp3).

Tales of science past

19:10, 19:40, 20:10, 20:40, 21:10

Join Keith Moore from our library team as he deep dives into our archives to share tales from the past. Keith will be showing off some secret treasures and sharing his favourite stories about scientists who have influenced great works of science fiction.

Free tickets can be collected from the information desk.

Keith Moore sat reading a book in a leather arm chair surrounded by piles of books
Levitating moon rock in the foreground with fog and beaker in the background

Foods of the future

18:50 and 20:20

Grab a free ticket to this workshop with our professional chefs to plate up some delicious desserts from the past and find out what the future of dining might hold.

Workshops have limited space. Free tickets can be collected from the information desk.

Portable diagnostics

Drop-in

Portable x-ray machines may sound like a gadget from Star Trek but scientists are developing x-ray machines which can fit in a suitcase. Drop in to find out more about the work of Adaptix

X-ray images of pig's trotters side by side, using traditional techniques and new cross-section techniques. The new techniques show the internal structure in higher resolution.
Artist impression of what lies beneath the surface of the Earth. Image shows the Earth cut in half through the poles with layers of glowing magma.

Journey to the centre of the Earth

Drop-in

Authors and screen writers have long imagined hidden worlds below the surface of the Earth. Come and meet the scientists from Royal Holloway, University of London using seismic technologies to uncover the secrets within the Earth's deep interior.

Machines learning to heal

Drop-in

Robotic surgeons are becoming more common place in hospitals and new technologies are helping human surgeons operate. Discover how scientists at Imperial College London are leading the way in developments which sound like something straight out of a Sci-Fi blockbuster. 

Image shows an operating room with surgical robot operating on a model skull.
Engraving of Tycho Brahe's mural quadrant from his 1602 publication of Astronomia instauratae mechanica.

Design your own scientific instrument

Drop-in

Sci-Fi writers have crafted new world, designed spaceships and manifested time machines. Join scientists from the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers and curators from the Science Museum to design your own inventions and hear about the long history of scientific instruments in London.

Fiery Earth: the volcano and the Royal Society

Drop-in

In 1883, the island of Krakatoa erupted in a series of cataclysmic volcanic explosions and the after-effects were experienced across the world. This exhibition looks at how natural philosophers struggled up to this point to understand volcanoes and why Krakatoa gave urgency to discovering more about our planet – for what happens deep beneath the Earth’s surface has consequences for us all.

Lithograph showing the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. The image shows lava and smoke pillowing from the top of the volcanic island with people on the shore.
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