Each investigator has been invited to London by their associate and friend, Dr. Julius Arthur Smith, to attend his presentation at The Challenger Trust Banquet-Lecture. The lecture is a formal affair hosted by the trustees, who select speakers of clear voice, sound mind, and impeccable credentials to report on original researches or inventions of theoretical or practical importance.
These evenings are held roughly once a year, though some years see two or three such events, while in other years none occur. The trustees, true to their charter and no doubt chuckling in discussion over cigars and port, encourage idiosyncratic and even amusing studies, but by individuals nonetheless able to convey proofs either inherently astonishing or startling in implication. In collective effect, the trustees judge nominees by Barnum’s criterion, “Amaze me.”
Nominees need not be subjects of the Crown; Curie and Marconi spoke here, as did Count von Zeppelin and Edison. Though the event was semi-secret then, Dr. Cavor is rumored to have lectured some months before his disturbing disappearance, levitating a raisin made luminous for purposes of demonstration.
The great formal dinner occurs in the Imperial Institute, in Kensington. The Upper East gallery’s stultifying reference collection of standard commercial products is put away in favor of tuxedos, gowns, splendid dress uniforms, glittering jewels, gleaming sabres, and waxed moustaches.