The

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

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.*

**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:**

Index of Societies | Index of Honours, etc. |

Main index | Biographies Index |

JOC/EFR May 2019

The URL of this page is:

https://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/Societies/CopleyMedal.html