Go back to article: Threading through history: the vertical transmission of Davy, Faraday and Tyndall’s lecture demonstration practices


This essay explores the extent to which residues of the practices inherent in nineteenth-century science lecture-demonstrations from the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI) are evident in contemporary forms of Science Museum Group (SMG) Explainer presentations. The discipline of Performance Studies offers a number of models to discuss such a consideration and this essay draws particularly on the connected, transgenerational theories of vertical transmission, embodied knowledge and intertheatricality. Specifically, the focus is on three notable scientists, selected here for their particular influence on the lecture-demonstration practices at the RI during the nineteenth century: Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday and John Tyndall. It suggests that aspects of their embodied performances in the lecture theatre have been transmitted through subsequent generations of RI practitioners. Extending this transmission, via specific events in 1954 that led to Science Museum Guide Lecturers observing RI practices, it suggests that these practices were then inherited and passed down through generations of lecturing and explaining staff at the museum.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/160604/001