Copley Medal

This medal is awarded for outstanding achievements in the physical sciences in odd years and the biological sciences in even years.

Copley Godfrey Copley FRS

The Copley Medal is the Society’s oldest and most prestigious award, having first been awarded in 1731. It has been awarded to several notable scientists, including Michael Faraday FRS, Charles Darwin FRS, Dorothy Hodgkin FRS and Francis Crick FRS.

The medal is awarded annually “for outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science”. The award alternates between the physical and biological sciences (odd and even years respectively). In 2010, to mark the Society’s 350th anniversary, two Copley medals were awarded, one for each branch of science.

The Copley Medal was created following donations from Godfrey Copley FRS (PDF) and was initially awarded for the most important scientific discovery or for the greatest contribution made by experiment. In 1831 the conditions were changed so that it was awarded to the author of the research that the Council of the Society decided was the most deserving of the honour. The medal is of silver gilt and is accompanied by a gift of £25,000. 


The call for nominations for the 2015 Copley Medal is now closed. Nominations for the 2016 medal will open in November 2015.

The recipient is chosen by the Council of the Royal Society on the recommendation of the Physical Sciences Awards Committee. Nominations are valid for three cycles of consideration with re-nomination possible after one cycle has passed.

There are no geographical restrictions on this award or limitations on the period in which the research achievements were made. It may be given more than once to the same person.

Professor Peter Higgs CH FRS

Most recent medallist

Professor Peter Higgs CH FRS was awarded the 2015 Copley Medal for his fundamental contribution to particle physics with his theory explaining the origin of mass in elementary particles, confirmed by the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider.

Premier Awards

Copley Medal: For outstanding achievements in either the physical or biological sciences.

Royal Medal: For the most important contributions in the physical, biological and applied sciences.

Bakerian Lecture: The premier lecture in the physical sciences.

Croonian Lecture: The premier lecture in the biological sciences.

See all medals, awards and prize lectures

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Photos of the Copley Medal

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