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Faraday Lectures ‘Sold Out;’ Reruns on TV

Nov. 30, 2011 – The University of Utah’s annual free New Faraday Lectures once again are “sold out” weeks ahead of time, but a past performance of the highly popular Christmastime chemistry demonstration will be broadcast four times by Utah’s KUEN channel 9.

Department of Chemistry staff members have been bombarded in recent months by requests for tickets to the 7 p.m. Dec. 19 and 20 live lectures by chemistry Professors Peter Armentrout and Chuck Wight – even though the events get nothing more than word-of-mouth advertising from people who have attended in the past.

About 350 people can attend each of the two lectures – in which the professors dress up as 19th century chemist Michael Faraday and his assistant wearing tuxedos and top hats. The chemistry staff received about five times as many calls for tickets as the number of seats available.

“About 90 percent of the seats are filled with children and their parents who heard about this at school,” says Wight, dean of the university’s Graduate School. “The marketing is nearly 100 percent word-of-mouth in the community.”

Armentrout and Wight have delivered the Faraday Lectures since 2005, when longtime lecturers and chemists Ron Ragsdale and Jerry Driscoll retired after putting on the annual performances for 24 consecutive years.

One of the older lectures by Ragsdale and Driscoll will be broadcast on the Utah Educational Network’s KUEN channel 9 at the following times, including a middle-of-the-night airing on the morning of Christmas Eve:

  • 3 p.m. MST Saturday, Dec. 10.
  • 9 p.m. MST Monday, Dec. 19.
  • 2 a.m. and 7 p.m. MST on Saturday, Dec. 24.

The University of Utah’s Faraday Lectures were inspired by the Christmas Lectures for children started by Faraday in 1825 at the Royal Institution in London. The institution has held Christmas Lectures each year since then, except during World War II. Faraday was one of the world’s greatest experimentalists and discovered an entire new area of chemistry known as electrochemistry.

Free tickets for the University of Utah’s 2012 Faraday Lectures will be available from the Department of Chemistry starting in October 2012.