Copley Medal

Winners of the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London


The Copley Medal is the highest award from the Royal Society of London. Sir Geoffrey Copley gave £100 to the Society in 1709 to be used for carrying out experiments and the interest on the money was used for this purpose for a number of years. In 1736 it was proposed that:-

... a medal or other honorary prize should be bestowed on the person whose experiment should be best approved...

In 1736 to was agreed to award a medal to the value of £5 either for the most important scientific discovery or for the greatest contribution made by experiment. In 1831 the conditions were changed again so that it was awarded to the author of the research that the Council of the Society decided was the most deserving the honour.

In 1881 Sir Joseph Copley donated £1666 13s. 4d. so that the interest would pay £50 per year to cover the costs of the Copley Medal.

The Copley Medal is awarded for scientific work in any field so the list we give has been restricted to those whose biographies appear in this Archive.

The winners of the medals are given below.

1746 Benjamin Robins
1753 Benjamin Franklin
1775 Nevil Maskelyne
1778 Charles Hutton
1784 Edward Waring
1795 Jesse Ramsden
1796 George Atwood
1809 Edward Troughton
1814 James Ivory
1821 John Herschel
1825 Francois Arago
1825 Peter Barlow
1831 George Airy
1832 Siméon Poisson
1834 Giovanni Plana
1838 Karl Gauss
1840 Charles-Francois Sturm
1841 George Ohm
1842 James MacCullagh
1846 Urbain Le Verrier
1847 John Herschel

1848 John Couch Adams
1859 Wilhelm Weber
1865 Michel Chasles
1866 Julius Plücker
1873 Hermann Helmholtz
1879 Rudolf Clausius
1880 James Sylvester
1882 Arthur Cayley
1883 William Thomson
1886 Franz Neumann
1889 George Salmon
1890 Simon Newcomb
1893 George Stokes
1895 Carl Weierstrass
1899 Lord Rayleigh
1901 Joseph Willard Gibbs
1909 George William Hill
1910 Francis Galton
1911 George Howard Darwin
1912 Felix Klein
1918 Hendrik Lorentz

1921 Joseph Larmor
1923 Horace Lamb
1925 Albert Einstein
1929 Max Planck
1938 Niels Bohr
1944 Geoffrey Taylor
1947 Godfrey H Hardy
1952 Paul A M Dirac
1954 Edmund T Whittaker
1955 Ronald A Fisher
1958 John E Littlewood
1960 Harold Jeffreys
1964 Sydney Chapman
1974 William V D Hodge
1984 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
1988 Michael F Atiyah
1998 James Lighthill
2002 John Pople
2006 Stephen Hawking
2008 Roger Penrose

MacTutor links:

Royal Society of London
History of the Royal Society
Fellows of the Royal Society
Presidents of the Royal Society

Royal Society Prizes etc:

Royal Medal
Sylvester Medal
Copley Medal
Bakerian Lectures

Other Web site:

Royal Society Web site


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JOC/EFR August 2009

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