50 leading scientists elected as Fellows of Royal Society

29 April 2016

Outstanding scientists, including pioneers who have increased our understanding of the brain in areas such as memory and paediatric pain; informed international policy on infectious diseases affecting humans and animals; delved into ancient DNA to study human origins and worked on the transformative gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 make up the 50 new Fellows and 10 new Foreign Members announced by the Royal Society today (29 April 2016).

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, says: “Science is a way of understanding both the world around us and ourselves. It is one of the great triumphs of human achievement and has contributed hugely to our prosperity and health. Science will continue to play a crucial role as we tackle some of the great challenges of our time including food, energy, health and the environment.  The scientists elected to the Fellowship are leaders who have advanced their fields through their ground breaking work. We are delighted to welcome them to the Royal Society.”

Among the 50 are: Nuclear engineering expert, Dame Sue Ion, a world authority on nuclear power whose knowledge is sought by the Governments of the UK, USA and the European Union.

Professor Dame Anne Glover has held roles in the political arena, including as Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission (2012-2015). Her research at the University of Aberdeen is focused on soil microbiology and she has developed techniques to clean up polluted land.

The newly elected Fellows include a strong representation of scientists in business and industry. They include Vinton Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google; Simon Peyton Jones, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Cambridge; David Hight, forensic engineering specialist and Founding Director of the Geotechnical Consulting Group; and Professor Christopher Abell, University of Cambridge, whose work has changed the face of drug discovery.

Professor Brian Cox, University of Manchester, is notable for his contributions to particle physics and is one of the UK’s most effective science communicators, reaching audiences of many millions through his landmark TV shows. Professor Marcus du Sautoy, the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, and presenter of the BBC series The Story of Maths is also a face familiar to the UK public.

Professor Sarah Cleaveland, University of Glasgow, is the driving force into researching rabies elimination in the developing world. Her work has made this a realistic outcome by 2030. Professor Maria Fitzgerald at UCL is a world leader in the science of pain and her research has had a major impact on the treatment of pain in infants.

Professor Jennifer Doudna has been made a Foreign Member for her work on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology that is revolutionising the fields of genetics, molecular biology and medicine. Also joining the list of Foreign Members is Dr Svante Pääbo who explores human genetic evolution by analysis of DNA extracted from ancient sources, including mummies and the bone fragments of Neanderthals.

Lord Adair Turner, Chairman at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, has been made an Honorary Fellow. He is a former chair of the Financial Services Authority (2008-2013).

The Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from or living and working in the UK and the Commonwealth. Past Fellows and Foreign Members have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Some statistics about this year’s intake are as follows:

  • 13 (26%) of this year’s intake of Fellows are women and there are two new female Foreign Members
  • New Fellows have been elected from across the UK, including Bristol, Durham, Newcastle, York and Glasgow, along with those from international institutions in Germany and the USA. Seven of the new Fellows are from Oxford University, nine from London institutions, five from Cambridge and three from the University of Aberdeen. 

See the full list of new Fellows and Foreign Members.