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
... on account of his curious Experiments for showing the resistance of the Air, and his rules for establishing his doctrine thereon for the motion of Projectiles.

1748 James Bradley
... on account of his very curious and wonderful discoveries in the apparent motion of the Fixed Stars, and the causes of such apparent motion.

1753 Benjamin Franklin
... on account of his curious Experiments and Observations on Electricity.

1775 Nevil Maskelyne
... in consideration of his curious and laborious Observations on the Attraction of Mountains, made in Scotland, - on Schehallien.

1778 Charles Hutton
... for his paper, entitled, The force of Fired Gunpowder, and the initial velocity of Cannon Balls, determined by Experiments.

1781 William Herschel
... for the Communication of his Discovery of a new and singular Star; a discovery which does him particular honour, as, in all probability, this star has been for many years, perhaps ages, within the bounds of astronomic vision, and yet till now, eluded the most diligent researches of other observers.

1784 Edward Waring
... for his Mathematical Communications to the Society. For his Paper On the Summation of Series, whose general term is a determinate function of z the distance from the first term of the series.

1795 Jesse Ramsden
... for his various inventions and improvements in the construction of the Instruments for the Trigonometrical measurements carried on by the late Major General Roy, and by Lieut. Col. Williams and his associates.

1796 George Atwood
... for his Paper on the construction and analysis of geometrical propositions determining the positions assumed by homogeneal bodies which float freely, and at rest; and also determining the Stability of Ships and other floating bodies.

1809 Edward Troughton
... for the Account of his Method of dividing Astronomical Instruments, printed in the last volume of the Philosophical Transactions.

1814 James Ivory
... for his various Mathematical Contributions printed in the Philosophical Transactions.

1821 John Herschel
... for his Papers printed in the Philosophical Transactions.

1824 John Brinkley
... for his various Communications to the Royal Society.

1825 Francois Arago
... for the Discovery of the Magnetic Properties of substances not containing Iron. For the Discovery of the power of various bodies, principally metallic, to receive magnetic impressions, in the same, though in a more evanescent manner than malleable Iron, ...

1825 Peter Barlow
... for his various Communications on the subject of Magnetism.

1831 George Airy
... for his Papers, On the principle of the construction of the Achromatic Eye-pieces of Telescopes, - On the Spherical Aberration of the Eye-pieces of Telescopes, and for other Papers on Optical Subjects in the Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Soc

1832 Siméon Poisson
... for his work entitled, "Nouvelle Theorie de l'Action Capillaire".

1834 Giovanni Plana
... for his work entitled, "Theorie du Mouvement de la Lune".

1838 Karl Gauss
... for his inventions and mathematical researches in magnetism.

1838 Michael Faraday
... for his researches in specific electrical induction.

1840 Charles-Francois Sturm
... for his "Memoire sur la Resolution des Equations Numeriques," published in the "Memoires des Savans Etrangers" for 1835.

1841 George Ohm
... for his researches into the laws of electric currents contained in various memoirs published in Schweiggers Journal, Poggendorffs Annalen and in a separate work entitled "Die galvanische Kette mathematisch bearbeitet".

1842 James MacCullagh
... for his researches connected with the wave theory of light, contained in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy.

1846 Urbain Le Verrier
... for his investigations relative to the disturbances of Uranus by which he proved the existence and predicted the place of the new Planet; the Council considering such prediction confirmed as it was by the immediate discovery of the Planet to be one of the ...

1847 John Herschel
... for his work entitled Results of Astronomical Observations made during the years 1834, 1835, 1836, 1837 and 1838, at the Cape of Good Hope; being a completion of a telescopic survey of the whole surface of the visible heavens, commenced in 1825.

1848 John Couch Adams
... for his investigations relative to the disturbances of Uranus, and for his application of the inverse problem of perturbations thereto.

1855 Léon Foucault
... for his various researches in experimental physics.

1859 Wilhelm Weber
... for the investigations contained in his Maasbestimmungen and other researches in electricity, magnetism, acoustics, etc.

1865 Michel Chasles
... for his historical and original researches in pure geometry.

1866 Julius Plücker
... for his researches in analytical geometry, magnetism and spectral analysis.

1873 Hermann Helmholtz
... for his researches in physics and physiology.

1879 Rudolf Clausius
... for his well-known researches upon heat.

1880 James Sylvester
... for his long continued investigations and discoveries in mathematics.

1882 Arthur Cayley
... for his numerous profound and comprehensive researches in pure mathematics.

1883 William Thomson
... for (1) his discovery of the law of the universal dissipation of energy; (2) his researches and eminent services in physics, both experimental and mathematical, especially in the theory of electricity and thermodynamics.

1886 Franz Neumann
... for his researches in theoretical optics and electro-dynamics.

1889 George Salmon
... for his various papers on subjects of pure mathematics, and for the valuable mathematical treatises of which he is the author.

1890 Simon Newcomb
... for his contributions to the progress of gravitational astronomy.

1893 George Stokes
... for his researches and discoveries in physical science.

1895 Carl Weierstrass
... for his investigations in pure mathematics.

1899 Lord Rayleigh
... in recognition of his contributions to physical science.

1901 Joseph Willard Gibbs
... for his contributions to mathematical physics.

1909 George William Hill
... on the ground of his researches in mathematical astronomy.

1910 Francis Galton
... on the ground of his researches in heredity.

1911 George Howard Darwin
... on the ground of his researches on tidal theory, the figures of the planets, and allied subjects.

1912 Felix Klein
... on the ground of his researches in mathematics

1918 Hendrik Lorentz
... on the ground of his distinguished researches in mathematical physics.

1921 Joseph Larmor
... for his researches in mathematical physics.

1923 Horace Lamb
... for his researches in mathematical physics.

1925 Albert Einstein
... for his theory of relativity and his contributions to the quantum theory.

1929 Max Planck
... for his contributions to theoretical physics and especially as the originator of the quantum theory.

1938 Niels Bohr
... in recognition of his distinguished work in the development of the quantum theory of atomic structure.

1944 Geoffrey Taylor
... for his many contributions to aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, and the structure of metals, which have had a profound influence on the advance of physical science and its applications.

1947 Godfrey H Hardy
... for his distinguished part in the development of mathematical analysis in England during the last thirty years.

1952 Paul A M Dirac
... in recognition of his remarkable contributions to relativistic dynamics of a particle in quantum mechanics.

1954 Edmund T Whittaker
... for his distinguished contributions to both pure and applied mathematics and to theoretical physics.

1955 Ronald A Fisher
... in recognition of his numerous and distinguished contributions to developing the theory and application of statistics for making quantitative a vast field of biology.

1958 John E Littlewood
... in recognition of his distinguished contributions to many branches of analysis, including Tauberian theory, the Riemann zeta function, and non-linear differential equations.

1960 Harold Jeffreys
... in recognition of his distinguished work in many branches of geophysics, and also in the theory of probability and astronomy.

1964 Sydney Chapman
... in recognition of his theoretical contributions to terrestrial and interplanetary magnetism, the ionosphere and the aurora borealis.

1974 William V D Hodge
... in recognition of his pioneering work in algebraic geometry, notably in his theory of harmonic integrals.

1984 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
... in recognition of his distinguished work on theoretical physics, including stellar structure, theory of radiation, hydrodynamic stability and relativity.

1988 Michael F Atiyah
... in recognition of his fundamental contributions to a wide range of topics in geometry, topology, analysis and theoretical physics.

1998 James Lighthill
... in recognition of his profound contributions to many fields within fluid mechanics including important aspects of the interaction of sound and fluid flow and numerous other contributions which have had practical applications in aircraft engine design. He ...

2002 John Pople
... for his development of computational methods in quantum chemistry. His work transformed density functional theory into a powerful theoretical tool for chemistry, chemical physics and biology.

2006 Stephen Hawking
... for his outstanding contribution to theoretical physics and theoretical cosmology.

2008 Roger Penrose
... for his beautiful and original insights into many areas of mathematics and mathematical physics. Sir Roger has made outstanding contributions to general relativity theory and cosmology, most notably for his work on black holes and the Big Bang.

2017 Andrew Wiles
... 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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JOC/EFR November 2018

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