Royal Institution Friday Evening Discourses

Faraday in 1826 introduced two innovations at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and which continue to this day. One was the Christmas Lectures for Children, and the other was the Friday Evening Discourse (FED), when a scientist explains to the RI members, who were largely of a  lay character, a latest innovation in science.

A FED starts at 8pm, when the doors are opened for the visitors, with formal dress expected. The visitors find a quartet playing, a bar, and in the Library an exhibition prepared by the speaker. The speaker, President and Guests are meanwhile finishing dinner. At 8:30pm, the speaker is taken to a small but comfortable room and given a glass of whisky. The reason for this is that on one occasion the speaker ran away, and Faraday was forced to give an impromptu Discourse! So the speaker is now locked in the room till called.

The room has cartoons emphasising the danger of starting the Discourse with `Ladies and Gentlemen': the speaker should launch directly into the science. In one of these carttoons, the speaker commits this solecism: the President is startled, a woman faints, and a footman comes forward to grab the speaker!

At 8:45 the audience are ushered into the lecture theatre, where Faraday himself lectured. Just before 9pm the Guests are ushered in. At 9pm, doore on either side of the podium are opened by footmen in red, and the President and speaker enter in the two doors.

The Discourse finishes at 10pm. The President exits with the speaker to ask some questions privately, and they then join the audience for coffee.