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).

You can find a full list of the Festival locations since 1831 on our Wikipedia page.

The British Science Festival today

During the course of the 1980s - 2000s, 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.

Since 2015, our refreshed and refocussed British Science Festival now comprises around 100 programmed events, taking place on campus and in the city centre over four or five days in early September, focusing on cutting-edge science, discovery and innovation. The Festival aims to showcase the research excellence of its host institution and explore the societal impacts and cultural applications of science, reaching tens of thousands of attendees (adults aged 16+) each year.

Alongside the main public programme of events within the British Science Festival, there is also a programme of press conferences and site visits, as well as a range of 'off-programme' events for stakeholders.

Our 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. The British Science Association has 17 Scientific Sections, encompassing all aspects of physical and social sciences.

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

Sponsorship opportunities

If you would like to become a sponsor for the British Science Festival, please contact Vijay Jassal, Director of Development and External Relations, to discuss a bespoke package to suit your needs.