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Copley Medal

Godfrey Copley FRS

The award

The Copley Medal is the Society’s oldest and most prestigious award. The medal is awarded for outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science.  

First awarded in 1731 following donations from Godfrey Copley FRS (PDF), it was initially awarded for the most important scientific discovery or for the greatest contribution made by experiment. The Copley Medal is thought to be the world's oldest scientific prize and it was awarded 170 years before the first Nobel Prize. Notable winners include Benjamin Franklin, Dorothy Hodgkin, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin. The medal is of silver gilt, is awarded annually, alternating between the physical and biological sciences (odd and even years respectively), and is accompanied by a a gift of £25,000.

The Copley Medal will be awarded in 2021 for outstanding achievement in any field of physical sciences.


The call for nominations is now closed. The next round of nominations, for outstanding achievement in any field of biological sciences, will open in November 2021.

Past winners

Sir Alan Fersht FMedSci FRS was awarded the Copley Medal 2020 for developing and applying the methods of protein engineering to provide descriptions of protein folding pathways at atomic resolution, revolutionising our understanding of these processes. 

Professor John Goodenough ForMemRS was awarded the Copley Medal 2019 in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the science and technology of materials, including his discovery that led to rechargeable lithium batteries.

Professor Jeffrey Gordon was awarded the Copley Medal 2018 for his contributions to understanding the role of gut microbial communities to human health and disease. 

To find out more about past winners you can read this series of blogs.

See full list of all past winners of the Copley Medal.

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