Christmas at the Polytechnic, 1858.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving taken from the 'Illustrated London News'. Demonstrations of scientific discoveries became popular entertainment at institutions such as the Royal Polytechnic Institution, founded in 1838 by George Cayley (1773-1857) and famed for its 'abominable smells and of the odd explosion' and the Regent's Street Polytechnic which combined 'magical' illusion with scientific realism. Electricity provided a number of entertainments including giving mild electric shocks, the demonstration that electricity may be conducted through the body, and 'Profesor' Pepper's (1821-1900) giant induction coil, which produced a 'flash of lightening' 29 inches long.