About Us

In 2017, the British Science Festival will be held in the city of Brighton, co-hosted by the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex. Taking place from the 5-9 September, the event was last hosted here in 1983.

The Festival features a daytime and evening programme – you can browse by day, theme, subject or speaker on our What’s on page – and will take place in venues in the city centre as well as on the Falmer campuses of the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex.

The history of the Festival

The British Science Festival is the longest-established science Festival in Europe.

Organised by the British Science Association (BSA), it grew out of the tradition of the annual meetings of the Association. First held in York in 1831 – and annually at cities across the UK, and further afield, ever since – the annual meeting brought scientists together to discuss their ground-breaking work with one another, across scientific disciplines, and, crucially, with the general public.

It was at these annual meetings that that major scientific advances were announced: Joule’s experiments on the mechanical equivalent of heat in the 1840s; Bessemer’s steel process (1856); the discovery of the first of the inert gases, Argon, by Rayleigh and Ramsay (1894); the first public demonstration of wireless transmission over a few hundred yards by Sir Oliver Lodge (1894); and J.J. Thomson’s discovery of the electron (1899).

It was at these meetings that the term ‘scientist’ was coined, and the ‘dinosaur’ named.

Scientific Sections

Since the foundation of the British Science Festival, the Scientific Sections, comprised of science professionals, have played a key role in developing the programme of events and organising talks, demonstrations, and other activities. The Sections are also important for advising the British Science Association (BSA) on the latest developments within their fields.

The following sections have organised events for this year’s Festival:

  • Agriculture and Food
  • Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Biological Sciences
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • General
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • History of Science
  • Mathematical Sciences
  • Medical Science
  • Physics and Astronomy
  • Psychology
  • Sociology and Social Policy

To find out more about the Scientific sections please visit the British Science Association website.

The Huxley debate

The annual meetings were designed to engender discussion and debate. Perhaps the best remembered of all was at Oxford in 1860: Darwin’s The Origin of Species had been published in 1859, but his health was not good enough to allow him to go to the Oxford meeting. Darwin’s ‘bulldog’, T.H. Huxley, was there, though, and brilliantly debated Darwinism with Samuel Wilberforce, Lord Bishop of Oxford who was Vice President of the Association at the time.

Almost two decades ago, the annual meeting grew into a Festival spanning a number of days, including evening ‘science meets arts/comedy/theatre’ events and activities for schools, families, and community audiences. The British Science Festival has inspired the growth of countless other science festivals across the UK.