The Birth Of The Royal Institution

The Royal Institution of Great Britain had been founded in 1799 by 58 wealthy proprietors who each paid what was then a huge sum of 50 guineas each. The purpose of the institution was to acquire and distribute knowledge for the general good, and many prominent proprietors were members of the Anglican Church, who realise that education in the sciences could greatly assist the poorer members of society in improving their positions. Search was made for suitable premises and number 21 Albemarle Street London was chosen. This has remained the society's main address ever since. it was converted at further great expense to include libraries, laboratories and lecture theatres. All this had to be paid for of course; the King, George lll, was persuaded to become a patron and the search was on for more wealthy people to contribute to the costs.

The first principal lecturer was the chemist Thomas Garnett; the finances of the institution were still shaky however and he resigned over non-payment of his fees. His replacement, one Thomas Young, was an able scientist but a poor lecturer and so attendances fell. It was decided that more subscribers would be invited to become members on the basis of either an annual payment or a more substantial contribution to become a life member; the existing proprietors were persuaded to give up all their privileges and become life members. committees were formed to look after the financing of the institution, the care of the building and the association's activities. One of the architects of these changes was a chemist called Humphry Davy, who was to have a huge impact on Faraday's career.