ARM technology creators among top scientists honoured by the Royal Society in 2016

19 July 2016

The Royal Society has announced the winners of the Society’s annual prizes today. The awards recognise exceptional scientists engaged in challenging research to open up new possibilities and new applications.

Among the winners are Professor Steve Furber CBE FREng FRS and Ms Sophie Wilson FREng FRS who have been awarded the Mullard Award jointly for their distinguished contributions to the design and analysis of the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) microprocessor which is used in mobile phone and portable electronics world over.

The award, which recognises outstanding scientific work which contributes to national prosperity in the United Kingdom, is just one of the awards announced by the Royal Society today. 

The ARM microprocessor has influenced the everyday life of most people through its use in electronic products of all sorts. It is also used in cars, TVs, disk drives and printers. The contribution of Furber and Wilson at Acorn in the 1980s was to put the fundamental research into commercial practice. The impact of that work is still growing, over 30 years later.

On winning the Mullard Award Professor Steve Furber said:

“I am very excited and honoured to be given this award by the Royal Society, which recognises the contribution that Sophie and I made in the early 1980s in sowing the seeds of ARM technology. It has been very rewarding to watch that technology grow and flourish – thanks to the efforts of many thousands of people – into a UK industrial success story that touches the lives of everyone on the planet today.”

Ms Sophie Wilson added: 

“This award comes about through the many years of success that ARM has now achieved through the contributions of so many engineers and it is an honour for Steve and I to receive it in recognition of our work so many years ago.”

Also being awarded a Royal Society medal is Professor Elizabeth Robertson FRS. Professor Robertson is a developmental biologist who studies mouse embryology and development to shed light on how cells acquire specialised function in the mammalian embryo. 

Professor Robertson is being awarded a Royal Medal, which is one of the Royal Society’s premier awards and is made on behalf of the Queen each year.

On winning a Royal Medal Professor Elizabeth Robertson said:

“It’s a huge honour to be awarded the 2016 Royal Medal for my part in teasing apart the genetic programmes and cell-cell interactions that underpin the first few critical days of the life of the mammalian embryo and shape the emerging body plan.

It’s a particular pleasure to be joining Royal Medal winners that include two of my scientific heroes the late Anne McLaren and Mary Lyon.”

The Royal Society’s most prestigious medal, the Copley Medal which is the world’s oldest continuously awarded scientific prizes, was given earlier this year to Dr Richard Henderson FRS, who was awarded the prize for his work in imaging techniques for proteins. 

The Royal Society Athena Prize will be awarded for the first time later this year. The prize is given to individuals or teams, working in UK academic and research communities, who have contributed most to the advancement of diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) within their communities. The prize will be awarded during the Royal Society’s annual diversity conference in October.

Premier Awards

Copley Medal (announced earlier this year)

Dr Richard Henderson FRS, for his fundamental and revolutionary contributions to the development of electron microscopy of biological materials, enabling their atomic structures to be deduced.

Royal Medals

Sir John Meurig Thomas FRS, for his pioneering work within catalytic chemistry, in particular on single-site heterogeneous catalysts, which have had a major impact on green chemistry, clean technology and sustainability

Professor Elizabeth Robertson FRS for her innovative work within the field of mouse embryology and development, establishing the pathways involved in early body planning of the mammalian embryo

Professor John Goodby FRS for his major advances and discoveries of new forms of matter and materials, in particular the development of chiral liquid crystals 

Croonian Medal and Lecture

Professor Jonathan Ashmore FRS for his significant contributions to the field of sensory neuroscience, shaping our current understanding of inner ear physiology, in particular for his analysis of the role of cochlear hair cells in normal hearing

Bakerian Medal and Lecture

Professor Andy Hopper CBE FRS for his outstanding research in computer technology, with significant economic impacts, in particular his work in computer networking and sentient computing systems with an aim to providing sustainability


Rumford Medal 

Professor Ortwin Hess, for his pioneering work in active nano-plasmonics and optical metamaterials with quantum gain. 

Davy Medal

Professor Stephen Mann FRS for distinguished contributions to the chemistry of bio-mineralization and for pioneering the bioinspired synthesis and self-assembly of functional nanostructures and hybrid nanoscale objects.

Darwin Medal

Dame Caroline Dean OBE FRS for her work addressing fundamental questions in the perception of temperature cues and how modifications in epigenetic mechanisms play an important role in adaptation.

Sylvester Medal 

Professor Timothy Gowers FRS for his groundbreaking results in the theory of Banach spaces, pure combinatorics, and additive number theory.

Leverhulme Medal 

Professor Anne Neville for revealing diverse physical and chemical processes at interacting interfaces, emphasising significant synergy between tribology and corrosion.

Prize lectures

Ferrier Medal

Professor Christine Holt FMedSci FRS for pioneering understanding of the key molecular mechanisms involved in nerve growth, guidance and targeting which has revolutionised our knowledge of growing axon tips. 

Michael Faraday Medal and Lecture

Dr Nick Lane for his excellent work in science communication.

Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture

Professor Jo Dunkley for her research in the cosmic microwave background and her innovative project to support and encourage girls studying physics.

Francis Crick Medal and Lecture 

Professor Simon Myers for transforming our understanding of meiotic recombination and of human population history. 

Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal and Lecture

Professor Jon Agar in recognition of his work as a leading figure in the history and philosophy of science, publishing ground breaking research on issues including military technology, the origins of computing, astronomy, surveillance, and public engagement with science.

Kavli Education Medal and Lecture

Dr Becky Parker for founding the Langton Star Centre for school children to perform authentic research in the sciences and her encouragement for other teachers to undertake creative and experimental research with their pupils.

Kavli Medal and Lecture

Professor Henry Snaith FRS for his discovery and development of perovskite solar cells which are expected to dramatically increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of solar energy.

Milner Medal and Lecture

Professor Andrew Zisserman FRS for his work on computational theory and commercial systems for geometrical images and as a pioneer in machine learning for vision.


Mullard Award

Jointly awarded to Professor Steve Furber CBE FREng FRS and Ms Sophie Wilson FREng FRS for their distinguished contributions to the design and analysis of the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM), the most successful embedded processor architecture in the world. 

Armourers & Brasiers Company Prize

Professor Neil Alford MBE FREng for his outstanding contributions to materials research with benefit to society, especially the development of ultra-low-loss microwave dielectrics for communications.

Pfizer Award

Dr Amina Abubakar Ali for pioneering psychological research in East Africa and her work developing neurodevelopmental assessments which are now being used throughout Africa. 

Athena Prize (to be announced later this year)

This is the first year this biennial prize will be awarded. The award is made to individuals or teams, working in UK academic and research communities, who have contributed most to the advancement of diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) within their communities.