The Old Post Room

Where the mail of the Royal Institution was once sorted, our scientists now meet for a chat, a coffee and demonstrations on the blackboard.

Notwithstanding his achievements, Michael Faraday, who always regarded himself as a servant of the Royal Institution, never forgot his humble background as the son of a blacksmith. For instance, when inviting the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts to visit him in 1861 to “see how philosophers work and live”, he apologised in advance for the “narrow stairs”. As he would have known, these were once the servants’ staircase.

Because the first room entered by Faraday’s narrow stairs was formerly the room in which the Institution’s mail was sorted, we now call it the Old Post Room. It’s where our researchers relax for a chat, a coffee, and spontaneous demonstrations on the blackboard. It’s still a good place, then, to see how “philosophers”, as scientists were once known, work and live.

As a postscript to the Old Post Room, even the bathroom off it has a claim to interest. This was the room that was set aside for the personal use of Queen Elizabeth II during her several visits to the Royal Institution, the last of which took place in 2008. On those occasions, it was known as “The Queen’s Retiring Room”.