The Copley Medal is the Society’s oldest and most prestigious award. The medal is now 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).
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.
Sir Andrew Wiles KBE FRS was awarded the Copley Medal in 2017 for his beautiful and unexpected proof of Fermat's Last Theorem which is one of the most important mathematical achievements of the 20th century.
Dr Richard Henderson FMedSci FRS was awarded the Copley Medal in 2016 in recognition of his fundamental and revolutionary contributions to the development of electron microscopy of biological materials, enabling their atomic structure to be deduced.
Professor Peter Higgs CH FRS was awarded the Copley Medal 2015 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.
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.