Watch Carl Sagan & Richard Dawkins Present the Royal Institution’s Famous Christmas Lectures

If only some­one could have invent­ed the inter­net by 1825. Not only would we have reached unimag­ined realms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion by now, but we would have a full 189 years of Christ­mas lec­tures to stream online at our leisure. A pro­duc­tion of the Roy­al Insti­tu­tion in the Unit­ed King­dom, the Christ­mas lec­tures began with the edu­ca­tion­al endeav­ors of elec­tro­mag­net­ism and elec­tro­chem­istry pio­neer Michael Fara­day. Between 1827 and 1860, Fara­day gave the first Christ­mas lec­tures on the Lon­don grounds of the Roy­al Insti­tu­tion, hold­ing forth on sub­jects like chem­istry, elec­tric­i­ty, and mat­ter in an effort to get the gen­er­al pub­lic excit­ed about sci­ence. Accord­ing to one of his sound­est prin­ci­ples of lec­tur­ing, “a flame should be light­ed at the com­mence­ment and kept alive with unremit­ting splen­dour to the end.” Gen­er­a­tions of sci­en­tif­ic lec­tur­ers have stepped for­ward to light and keep that splen­did flame to this day.

At the top of the post, we have the first of Carl Sagan’s six Christ­mas lec­tures on Earth, Mars, and our solar sys­tem from 1977. Just above, you can watch the first of Richard Dawkins’ 1991 Christ­mas lec­ture series enti­tled Grow­ing Up in the Uni­verse. Though Sagan and Dawkins osten­si­bly geared their lec­tures toward kids — just as Fara­day intend­ed his sci­en­tif­ic spec­ta­cles for a “juve­nile audi­ence” — don’t let that turn you off if you’ve already reached adult­hood. In fact, grown-ups may stand to gain more than kids, giv­en our ten­den­cy to binge-watch. Why not give your­self an edu­ca­tion­al hol­i­day treat by plow­ing through the past sev­er­al years of Christ­mas lec­tures archived at the Roy­al Insti­tu­tion’s web site? This Christ­mas, they’ve got pro­fes­sor Danielle George on “how the spark of your imag­i­na­tion and some twen­ty first cen­tu­ry tin­ker­ing can change the world” — so get ready to gath­er ’round with all the future world-chang­ers you know, young or old.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Carl Sagan Presents Six Lec­tures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar Sys­tem … For Kids (1977)

Grow­ing Up in the Uni­verse: Richard Dawkins Presents Cap­ti­vat­ing Sci­ence Lec­tures for Kids (1991)

Carl Sagan Explains Evo­lu­tion in an Eight-Minute Ani­ma­tion

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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