The British Science Festival is the longest-standing science Festival in the UK. Organised by the British Science Association, 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 - bringing 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.

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.

The British Science Festival has inspired the growth of countless other science festivals - from large and established ones (Cheltenham, Edinburgh and Manchester) to smaller and newer events (Aberdeen, Brighton and Winchester).

To see the Festival evaluations and programmes from 2005 to present please click here.

This PDF also shows you all the Festival locations since 1831.

The British Science Festival today


More than a decade ago, the 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 Festival now consists of around 100 programmed events over four days in September that focus on cutting edge research and reach tens of thousands of attendees.

Alongside the main programme of events within the British Science Festival, there will be a family weekend, organised by the local university, aimed at families and schools.


Ways to get involved in the Festival


Present your research at the British Science Festival 2016

The Festival is opening its doors to academics, individuals and organisations who are interested in getting involved. The open call is now open. The deadline for proposals is Friday 25 March.

Nominate an Award Lecturer for 2016

The Award Lectures aim to promote open and informed discussion on issues involving science and actively encourage scientists to explore the social aspects of their research. Submit a nomination or learn more here. The deadline for nominations is Friday 4 March.

The BSA Scientific Sections

The British Science Association's Scientific Sections play a crucial role in both developing content for the Festival programme and advising on the latest developments within their fields. There are 16 Scientific Sections in total, which encompass all aspects of physical and social sciences.

Find out more about the Sections and how to get involved here.

For more information about the Festival, or if you wish to host the Festival in future years, please contact Ivvet Modinou in the Engagement Team.

Sponsorship opportunities

Would you like to become a sponsor for the 2016 Festival in Swansea? Please contact Aoine Saunders, Holly Christie or Elizabeth Baxter in the Development Team to discuss a bespoke package to suit your needs.