Autumn is drawing to a close, and winter is on the way; the days are getting colder and the nights are getting longer. The summer heatwave is now just a distant memory, so perhaps you’re looking for something to put you in a festive mood, with Christmas just around the corner – there are only 34 shopping days left to go, in case you were wondering.

After the success of last year’s event, the Royal Society is once again opening late for ‘Collections by Candlelight: A Victorian Christmas’, on the evening of Thursday 6 December. The evening is for over-18s only and free to attend. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about some of the key scientists and scientific discoveries of the era, get involved with some seasonal arts and crafts, and watch some Darwin-themed dancing. This is also a rare opportunity to explore Carlton House Terrace after dark, with a mince pie in one hand and a glass of mulled wine in the other.


Candlelight at the Royal Society. All the pictures in this article were taken at the 2017 event.


A series of events throughout the evening will be shining a light on the work of some famous Victorian scientists. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and Michael Faraday’s work on electromagnetic fields, will both be under the spotlight (or should that be candlelight?). We’ll also be looking at two of the prominent women scientists of the period: Mary Anning, a fossil collector and dealer who was one of the most knowledgeable palaeontologists of her day, and Ada Lovelace, a mathematician whose work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine has given her a reputation as the world’s first computer programmer. We’ll be telling more than a few tales of Victorian science throughout the evening, so do pop along.

We’re also delving into the development of photography in the Victorian period, focusing in particular on British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. She captured images of many of the celebrities of her day, and her particular style has left a lasting impact on the world of photography, even today. If moving pictures are more your thing, we’ll also be looking at how optical illusions led to the development of cinema, and our thaumatrope workshop will give you a chance to create your own Victorian optical illusion.



Hands-on activities will be running throughout the evening as well. If you haven’t yet sorted out your festive greetings cards, or you need some crackers for Christmas lunch, come along to find out how they were made in Victorian times, and create some of your own. Budding artists can also drop in to our still life drawing class, where hidden treasures from the Society’s archive collection will be on display. This year we also have a Darwin-themed dance performance, and Professor Nicky Clayton FRS will be on hand to help make sense of it.

Keep an eye on the event webpage for the final version of the programme. Doors open at 6:30 pm on 6 December, and if last year is anything to go by it’s likely to be a popular event – so please arrive on time!



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