Save the Royal Institution! Why selling this historic Mayfair building would be a betrayal of our heritage

This neoclassical temple on Albermarle Street hosted Michael Faraday - as the picture below testifies. Will we really let it be converted into a vile jewellers or luxury flats?

Related Topics

Here are three stories which you may have missed today that, in very different ways, offer hope of a better world.

Our peerless Science Editor, Steve Connor, reported the discovery that “human DNA can naturally wrap itself into a different shape – a quadruple helix – in a breakthrough that could point the way to new cancer treatments”. Apparently the quadruple DNA helix is “more common in cells that are rapidly dividing, indicating that it could be important in determining whether or not a cell becomes cancerous” – a subject close to my heart at the moment.


Next, a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience described how Professor John Parnell and Dr Joseph Michalski assessed the huge McLaughlin Crater on the surface of Mars. Their discovery was thrilling: rocks flung up by a meteorite show evidence of minerals that appear to have been altered by water. This could be the best evidence yet of life on the red planet.

Finally, I saw this headline on “Low power laser may keep blindness at bay”.

Could anyone but a misanthrope read these stories – all of them the result of years of effort by scientists in Britain – and not feel a sense of exhilaration? The vast majority of us lead lives both totally devoid of science (we think about dinner, not DNA, while waiting for the bus) and totally full of science, in that all our material comforts are the product of pioneering work by the men in white coats. And it’s in the context of this second point that we should greet the appalling news that the Royal Institution (RI) is for sale.

Or at least, its building is. If you haven’t been to this stunning monument to Victorian ambition, you really must. It’s the neoclassical temple on Mayfair’s Albermarle Street in which Michael Faraday – you know, the dude who discovered electromagnetic induction, invented the electric motor, founded nanotechnology – did his work, as did countless other great Britons (John Tyndall, James Dewar, George Porter, etc).


But because of a £22m refurbishment in 2008, and a subsequent recession, the RI is £7m in debt. The trustees are considering selling the building.

Short of famine, genocide and horse meat burgers, I honestly can think of few things more antithetical to our common humanity than the idea that this noble building will be sold off and replaced by some vile jeweller or Sicilian restaurant, or converted into luxury apartments.

If you bother to read the international pages of this or any other half decent newspaper, you’ll see that the countries that are surging toward global dominance are investing very heavily in science, research, and technology. In the meantime, we’re thinking about abandoning the embodiment our scientific heritage in honour of the latest Mayfair monstrosity.

Have we gone mad?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her