The Royal Society announces this year's medal and award winners29 August 2023
Renowned astrophysicist and cosmologist, Martin Rees (Lord Rees of Ludlow, OM Kt HonFREng FRS), has been named this year’s recipient of the world’s oldest and most prestigious scientific award.
The Royal Society’s Copley Medal, awarded for sustained, outstanding achievements in any field of science, was first awarded in 1731. Previous recipients have included Louis Pasteur, Dorothy Hodgkin, Albert Einstein, and Charles Darwin.
Lord Rees, a Fellow and former President of the Royal Society, and the UK’s current Astronomer Royal, is one of the most distinguished theoretical astrophysicists of his generation and was chosen for his many and varied conceptual breakthroughs over several decades, with influence spreading far beyond the specialist academic community.
Accepting the Medal, Lord Rees, who has authored or co-authored more than 500 research papers and 11 books, said: “It is of course deeply gratifying to have my lifetime efforts recognised by award of the Copley medal.
“But I’ve had enough experience of prize juries to realise the substantial arbitrariness and luck in all such awards! I've been especially fortunate to have injected fruitful ideas into the interpretation of new data in several areas of astronomy, and to have collaborated with many colleagues at different phases of my career. I would acknowledge especially (in alphabetical order), Mitch Begelman, Roger Blandford, Andy Fabian, Peter Meszaros, and Simon White.”
Lord Rees’ contributions have led to significant advances in domains ranging from galaxy formation to cosmic jets, black holes, gamma ray bursts as well as more speculative aspects of cosmology – in particular, whether we live in a multiverse – and the prospect of detecting extra-terrestrial life.
He is among 25 2023 Royal Society Medal and Award winners. Others include Sir Patrick Vallance KCB FMedSci FRS and Professor Sir Christopher John MacRae Whitty KCB FMedSci FRS who jointly receive the Royal Medal (Applied) for their pivotal role in ensuring that the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic benefited from the best science and evidence, Professor Hagan Bayley FRS from the University of Oxford who receives the Buchanan Medal for founding the hugely successful company, Oxford Nanopore Technology, and Professor Catherine Noakes OBE FREng who receives the Gabor Medal for her pioneering contributions to infection risk modelling and her exceptional leadership in the field through groundbreaking research and a multidisciplinary approach.
This year’s Africa Prize is awarded to Professor Kelly Chibale, from the University of Cape Town, for exceptional leadership and groundbreaking work in drug discovery for African endemic diseases. The Rising Star Africa Prize is awarded to Dr Wade Petersen, also from the University of Cape Town, for his research into new methods for the construction of molecules relevant to drug discovery using visible light as a source of energy.
Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society said, “On behalf of the Royal Society, I offer my congratulations to all the 2023 recipients of Medals and Awards. The breadth and scope of scientific knowledge and experience reflected in this year’s nominations is nothing short of phenomenal. I am very proud to celebrate such outstanding scientific contributions from so many different specialisms around the world.”
The full list of 2023 winners
The Lord Rees of Ludlow OM Kt HonFREng FRS, University of Cambridge 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.
Bakerian Medal and Lecture
Professor Michele Dougherty CBE FRS, Imperial College London for her scientific leadership of the Cassini magnetic field instrument at Saturn, seminal research findings on potential life support on Enceladus and leadership of forthcoming missions to probe Jupiter’s icy moons.
Croonian Medal and Lecture
Professor Edward Holmes FRS, University of Sydney for being a global authority on virus evolution and emergence, who played a key role in the discovery of SARS-CoV-2 and was the first to publicly release the genome sequence.
Royal Medal (Physical)
Sir Antony Hoare FREng FRS, University of Oxford for groundbreaking contributions that have revolutionised the computer programming field, the development of "Hoare logic" that has paved the way for provably correct code, providing a robust framework for ensuring software reliability.
Royal Medal (Biological)
Professor Herman Waldmann FMedSci FRS, University of Oxford for pioneering monoclonal antibodies for human therapy.
Royal Medal (Applied)
Sir Patrick Vallance KCB FMedSci FRS, Natural History Museum/GCSA and Professor Sir Christopher John MacRae Whitty KCB FMedSci FRS, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine/DHSC for their pivotal role in ensuring that the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has benefitted from the very best science and evidence.
Royal Society Africa Prize
Professor Kelly Chibale, University of Cape Town for exceptional leadership and groundbreaking work in drug discovery for African endemic diseases.
Clifford Paterson Medal and Lecture
Professor Mohan Edirisinghe OBE, FREng, University College London for seminal research in engineering science of making small structures from soft matter in novel scalable ways, creating new frontiers in functional applications causing major advances in manufacturing and healthcare.
David Attenborough Award and Lecture
Professor Richard Wiseman, University of Hertfordshire for his sustained and innovative public engagement with the psychology of magic and the nature of deception, and his exposure of pseudo-science through multiple routes including books, videos and festivals.
Francis Crick Medal and Lecture
Professor Stephen Fleming, University College London for tackling foundational questions about the neurobiology of conscious experience and advancing our understanding of the neural and computational basis of metacognition.
Leeuwenhoek Medal and Lecture
Professor Joanne Webster, Royal Veterinary College for her achievements in advancing control of disease in humans and animals caused by parasites in Asia and Africa.
Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture
Professor Anil Seth, University of Sussex for his ability to inspire and communicate concepts and advances in cognitive neuroscience and consciousness, and therefore what it means to be human, to the public.
Royal Society Milner Award and Lecture
Professor Artur Ekert FRS, University of Oxford for his pioneering contributions to quantum communication and computation, which transformed the field of quantum information science from a niche academic activity into a vibrant interdisciplinary field of industrial relevance.
Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture
Professor Karen Johnson, Durham University for her achievements in environmental engineering and her impactful project explaining the importance and of soil health and how and why it should be conserved.
Royal Society Rising Star Africa Prize
Dr Wade Petersen, University of Cape Town for his research into new methods for the construction of molecules relevant to drug discovery using visible light as a source of energy and their innovative research proposal.
Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal and Lecture
Professor Sarah Franklin, University of Cambridge for her research into, and advocacy for, the social aspects of new reproductive technologies.
Professor Hagan Bayley FRS, University of Oxford for founding Oxford Nanopore Technology, the hugely successful biotech company.
Dr Peter Campbell FMedSci FRS, The Sanger Institute for his pioneering contributions to somatic evolution, including some of the most creative and influential studies of evolution in cancer and normal tissues.
Professor Dame Margaret Brimble CNZM FRS, University of Auckland for outstanding contributions to organic chemistry with wide-ranging applications across the life sciences.
Professor Catherine Noakes OBE FREng, University of Leeds for her pioneering contributions to infection risk modelling and her exceptional leadership in the field through groundbreaking research and a multidisciplinary approach.
Royal Society Hauksbee Award
‘Technicians: We Make the Difference' 100 Technicians for their tireless efforts in tackling the critical technician skills shortage and their invaluable contributions to various industries.
Professor Erwin Reisner, University of Cambridge for pioneering new concepts and solar technologies for the production of sustainable fuels and chemicals from carbon dioxide, biomass and plastic waste.
Royal Society Research Culture Award
Daphne Jackson Trust for being a leading organisation dedicated to realising the potential of returners to research careers after career breaks taken for family, caring or health reasons.
Professor Polina Bayvel CBE FREng FRS, University College London for pioneering contributions to the fundamental physics and nonlinear optics, enabling the realisation of high capacity, broad bandwidth, multi-wavelength, optical communication systems that have underpinned the information technology revolution.
Professor Miles Reid FRS, University of Warwick for his exceptionally creative research and fundamental insights into higher-dimensional algebraic geometry, in particular the minimal model program for 3-folds, and for untiring work for the community of algebraic geometers.