Saturday, November 29, 2008

Royal Institution

London is absolutely lousy with venerable, learned institutions. I've been lucky enough to go to many of them, but until last week I'd never even heard of the Royal Institution (RI). In deepest Mayfair, it has been recently refurbished and is particularly famous for its Christmas lectures, which were set up by the great Michael Faraday. This particular evening it was hosting the recording of a BBC World Service program called The Forum, which presents three people of interest and allows them to discuss their areas of expertise.

This time the guests were Steve Jones, biologist; Gillian Slovo, novelist; and Barbara Taylor, historian. Proceedings were moderated by none other than the Director of the RI, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield. Baroness Greenfield is fabulous: intelligent, articulate and insightful, she defiantly wears mini-skirts despite her age and station in life, and based on her performance on this panel, she has a career in broadcasting if she ever decides the brain is boring. Having her there partially made up for missing the same evening's neuroscience lecture at the even more venerable Royal Society. So many lectures, so little time! Oh, the wild life I lead.

The discussion was, unsurprisingly given the panellists, surpassing interesting. I particularly enjoyed Professor Jones' thoughts on evolution - should our beloved Richard ever pass on, or rather cease to exist, Steve could easily step into the breach. You can listen for yourself if you're interested and want to hear my clapping.

Finally, for Londoners, I can recommend the newly opened bar. It's a refined and salubrious beverage stop if you're hobknobbing around Mayfair, as I, obviously, so often am.

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