Stephen Gray Lectures

The Stephen Gray Lectures are a series of talks celebrating both Stephen Gray’s work as well as related areas of Physical Sciences. Being one of Canterbury’s most prominent Physical Scientists the lectures will take place at the University of Kent’s main campus in Canterbury. See below for more specific details about each lecture.

Thursday 15th February 2018 –
Professor Sir Michael Berry: “Nature’s Optics and our Understanding of Light”

Thursday 30th March 2017 –
Dr. David H. Clark: “Stephen Gray –
Canterbury’s Forgotten Hero of Science”
– view the lecture online here.

Selected bibliography on Stephen Gray

General Bibliography

For a general, very brief introduction to the figure of Stephen Gray, see:

The above work is written very much with a Canterbury perspective in mind, but constitutes an excellent starting point.

A thoroughly enjoyable account of Stephen Gray’s life and works set in the broader context of late XVII / early XVIII century science is offered in the following book:

  • David H. Clark and Stephen P.H. Clark. “Newton’s Tyranny : The Suppressed Scientific Discoveries of Stephen Gray and John Flamsteed in SearchWorks.” New York : W.H. Freeman and Co., c2001. Accessed February 1, 2017.

The book was co-authored by David H Clark, our first Stephen Gray lecturer. You can watch a video of his lecture here.

The above book was reviewed by Mark P. Silverman in American Journal of Physics 71, 507 (2003), (also available at, accessed 4 July 2018) and by M. Peck in Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics 27, 734-735 (2004),

The following web page contains a useful chronology and data sheet on Stephen Gray:

Here are some additional, quite detailed biographical articles on Stephen Gray:

  • “Stephen Gray: The First Copley Medallist.” Nature, February 22, 1936.
  • Cohen, I. Bernard. “Neglected Sources for the Life of Stephen Gray (1666 or 1667-1736).” Isis 45, no. 1 (May 1, 1954): 41–50.
  • Clark, David H., and Lesley Murdin. “The Enigma of Stephen Gray Astronomer and Scientist (1666–1736).” Vistas in Astronomy 23 (1979): 351–404.
  • Sergio Luiz Bragatto Boss, and Joao Jose Caluzi. “Uma Breve Biografia de Stephen Gray (1666-1736).” Revista Brasileira de Ensino de Fisica 32, no. 1 (2010): 1602.

Electrical experiments:

Jim Al-Khalili produced an excellent series of short, entertaining TV programmes on electricity for the BBC. His re-enactment of the famous Stephen Gray “Flying Boy” experiment is really worth watching:

  • Jim Al-Khalili, “Stephen Gray’s ‘Hanging Boy’ Experiment” (video), in “Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity”, British Broadcasting Corporation, (accesed 4 July 2018).

You can read more about the above experiment here:

The following articles cover Stephen Gray’s electricity work, particularly his experiments on electrical conduction and insulation, more broadly:

Here is an interesting proposition to use Stephen Gray’s conduction experiments for project-based teaching:

Granville Wheler and Otterden Place:

Otterden Place was the stately home of Gray’s collaborator, Granville Wheler, where the historic experiments on electrical conduction were carried out. The following page describes the place (with only a brief mention of the historic experiments):

The following post focuses more specifically on the significance of the site for the history of science. It was written by Charlotte Sleigh, who is the Director of Kent’s Centre for the History of the Sciences, following a visit to the site on the occasion of the first Stephen Gray Lecture: