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Copley Medal

Godfrey Copley FRS

Copley medallist 2021

Copley-Medal-Jocelyn-Bell-BurnellDame Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE FRS (credit Royal Society of Edinburgh)

The Copley Medal 2021 is awarded to Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE FRS for her work on the discovery of pulsars, one of the major astronomical discoveries of the 20th century.

Dame Jocelyn will be presented with a medal and a gift of £25,000 at the Royal Society at a future date.

Return to this year's Royal Society medal, award and prize winners.

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 call for nominations is now closed. The next round of nominations will open in November 2021.  

Past winners

Sir Alan Fersht FMedSci FRS was awarded the Copley Medal 2020. He has developed and applied 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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