Copley Medal

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

  • Opening date

  • Closing date

  • Winners announcement

    Date subject to confirmation

The award

The Copley Medal is the Society’s oldest and most prestigious award. The medal is awarded for sustained, outstanding achievements in any field 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. 

Eligibility

The Copley medal is open to international citizens. It is restricted to senior scientists and nominations will remain valid and shall be considered by the award selection committee throughout three nomination cycles. Teams or groups may now be nominated for this award. In 2024, the Copley Medal will be awarded for the biological sciences. 

Nominations are closed

Nominations will reopen in November 2024.

2023 winner

  • Martin Rees

    Martin Rees

    The Lord Rees of Ludlow OM Kt HonFREng FRS

    The Copley Medal 2023 is awarded to Martin Rees (The Lord Rees of Ludlow OM Kt HonFREng FRS) for being arguably the most distinguished theoretical astrophysicist of his generation, responsible for numerous and varied conceptual breakthroughs, with influence spreading far beyond the specialist academic community.
  • Past winners

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      Awarded in 2022

      Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Team

      For rapidly developing and deploying a COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Jocelyn Bell Burnell
      Awarded in 2021

      Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

      For her work on the discovery of pulsars, one of the major astronomical discoveries of the 20th century.
    • Alan Fersht
      Awarded in 2020

      Sir Alan Fersht FMedSci FRS

      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.
    • John Goodenough
      Awarded in 2019

      John Goodenough

      In recognition of his exceptional contributions to the science and technology of materials, including his discovery that led to rechargeable lithium batteries.
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      Awarded in 2018

      Jeffrey Gordon

      For his contributions to understanding the role of gut microbial communities to human health and disease.
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      Awarded in 2017

      Sir Andrew Wiles KBE FRS

      For his beautiful and unexpected proof of Fermat's Last Theorem which is one of the most important mathematical achievements of the 20th century.
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      Awarded in 2016

      Richard Henderson

      For his fundamental and revolutionary contributions to the development of electron microscopy of biological materials, enabling their atomic structures to be deduced.
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      Awarded in 2015

      Peter Higgs

      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.
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      Awarded in 2014

      Alec Jeffreys

      For his pioneering work on variation and mutation in the human genome.
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      Awarded in 2013

      Andre Geim

      For his numerous scientific contributions and, in particular, for initiating research on two‐dimensional atomic crystals and their artificial heterostructures.
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      Awarded in 2012

      John Walker

      For his ground-breaking work on bioenergetics, discovering the mechanism of ATP synthesis in the mitochondrion.
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      Awarded in 2011

      Dan McKenzie

      For his seminal contributions to the understanding of geological and geophysical phenomena including tectonic plates.