By Charles Tanford & Jacqueline Reynolds
The Royal Institution is famous for its unique public lectures, its chemical and physical researches, and, above all, as the home and laboratory of Michael Faraday. The Faraday Museum (in the basement) includes Faraday’s magnetic laboratory, restored to its original size and condition, and all manner of Faraday apparatus. Especially prominent is the giant electromagnet that Faraday built to demonstrate the weak diamagnetism of substances previously thought to be non-magnetic. An upstairs gallery displays equipment used by other institute scientists, such as Humphry Davy. The lecture hall and paintings of famous lecturers in action are regrettably in parts of the institute not open to the public.
A statue of Faraday stands in the entrance vestibule, at the foot of the staircase. It was commissioned by a group of public-spirited citizens (chaired by the Prince of Wales), who wanted to erect a suitable memorial in Westminster Abbey. But the family was adamant that no statue should exist in a church that Faraday would never have entered himself, and so it came to rest here at the Royal Institution. A small plaque was eventually placed in Westminster Abbey in 1931.