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Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture

Given on a subject relating to the history of science, philosophy of science or the social function of science.

John Wilkins FRS, John Desmond Bernal FRS and Peter Medawar FRS

The award

The Wilkins, Bernal and Medawar lectures were originally delivered as three separate lectures, each given triennially. Since 2007, they have been combined under the one title of the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture, and have been given annually.

The subject matter for the lecture is some aspect of the social function of science, as per the Bernal Lecture Fund endowed by John Desmond Bernal FRS (PDF), the philosophy of science or some other field of interest to Peter Medawar FRS (PDF), and the history of science in recognition of John Wilkins FRS (PDF), the first Secretary of the Society.

The lectureship is accompanied by a medal and a gift of £2,000.


The call for nominations is now closed. Nominations for next year's prize will open on 30 November 2016.

The recipient is chosen by the Council of the Royal Society on the recommendation of the Public Engagement 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.

If possible the Committee will award the lectureship to an early-to-mid career stage scientist, historian or philosopher. The award is open to citizens of a Commonwealth country or of the Irish Republic or those who have been ordinarily resident and working in a Commonwealth country or in the Irish Republic for a minimum of 3 years immediately prior to being proposed.

Past winners

Dr Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group, gave the 2012 Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture on Heroes of science.

Melvyn Bragg gave the 2010 Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture on ‘Notes from an Amateur: On the History of the Royal Society’.

See full list of all past winners of the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture.