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Copley Medal

Godfrey Copley FRS

The award

The Copley Medal is the Society’s oldest and most prestigious award. It was first awarded in 1731, 170 years before the first Nobel Prize. It has been awarded to many notable scientists, including Benjamin Franklin, Dorothy Hodgkin, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.

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).

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 has now closed. The next round of nominations will open in November 2016.

The recipient is chosen by the Council of the Royal Society on the recommendation of the Premier Awards Committee. The committee will consider the nomination a maximum of 3 times, before the nomination is retired. Re-nomination is possible after 1 round has passed.

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

Past winners

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

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.

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys KBE FRS was awarded the 2014 Copley Medal for his pioneering work on variation and mutation in the human genome

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