The Royal Medals were established by King George IV and then continued, with certain changes to their conditions, by King William IV and Queen Victoria.

Originally they were awarded for the most important discoveries in the previous year. The time period was changed to five years then shortened to three years. When Victoria came to the throne in 1837 the conditions for the Royal Medals changed to operate on a three year cycle with Mathematics being one of the subjects for which a Medal could be awarded every third year.

In 1850, however, the conditions were changed again as follows:-

The list of Royal Medal winners is long, and most, of course, are not mathematicians. The list given below is only a partial list to include those whose biographies are contained in this archive.... the Royal Medals in each year should be awarded for the two most important contributions to the advancement of Natural Knowledge, published originally in Her Majesty's dominions within a period of not more than ten years and not less than one year of the date of the award, subject, of course, to Her Majesty's approval. ... in the award of the Royal Medals, one should be given in each of the two great divisions of Natural Knowledge.

**1826** James Ivory

*... for his Paper on Astronomical Refractions, published in the Philosophical Transactions for the year *1823*; and his other valuable Papers on Mathematical Subjects.*

**1833** John F W Herschel

*... for his Paper "on the Investigation of the Orbits of Revolving Double Stars," inserted in the Fifth Volume of the Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society.*

**1835** Sir William R Hamilton

*... for the papers published by him in the *16*th and *17*th volumes of the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, entitled Supplement to an Essay on the Theory of Systems of Rays, and more particularly for those investigations at the conclusion of the third ... *

**1836** John F W Herschel

*... for his paper on nebulae and clusters of stars, published in the Philosophical Transactions for *1833*.*

**1838** Henry Fox Talbot

*... for his papers entitled Researches in the Integral Calculus, published in the Philosophical Transactions for *1836* and *1837*.*

**1838** Michael Faraday

*... for his investigations and discoveries contained in the series of experimental researches in electricity published in the Philosophical Transactions, and more particularly for the seventh series, relating to the definite nature of electrochemical action.*

**1839** James Ivory

*... for his paper on the theory of the astronomical refractions published in the Philosophical Transactions for *1838*. Part *II*.*

**1840** John F W Herschel

*... for his paper entitled On the chemical action of the rays of the solar spectrum on preparations of silver, and other substances, both metallic and non-metallic, and on some photogenic processes, published in the Philosophical Transactions for 1840.*

**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.*

**1844** George Boole

*... for his paper on a general method in analysis, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the present year.*

**1845** George B Airy

*... for his paper on the laws of the tides on the cost of Ireland, as inferred from an extensive series of observations made in connection with the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, published in the Philosophical Transactions for the present year.*

**1856** William Thomson

*... for his various chemical researches relating to electricity, to the motive power of hear, and to other subjects.*

**1859** Arthur Cayley

*... for his mathematical papers published in the Philosophical Transactions, and in various English and foreign journals.*

**1861** James J Sylvester

*... for his various memoirs and researches in mathematical science*

**1868** George Salmon

*... for his researches in analytical geometry and the theory of surfaces, published in the Philosophical Transactions, the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, and the Quarterly Journal of Mathematics.*

**1882** Lord Rayleigh

*... for his various papers in mathematical and experimental physics.*

**1883** Thomas A Hirst

*... for his researches in pure mathematics.*

**1884** George H Darwin

*... for his mathematical investigations on the rigidity of the Earth, and on tides.*

**1886** Peter G Tait

*... for his various mathematical and physical researches.*

**1886** Francis Galton

*... for his statistical inquiries into biological phenomena*

**1888** Osborne Reynolds

*... for his investigations in mathematical & experimental physics, and on the application of scientific theory to engineering.*

**1896** Charles V Boys

*... for his invention of Quartz Fibres and investigation of their properties, his improvement of the radio-micrometer and investigations with it, for developments in the art of instantaneous photography, and for his determination of the value of the ...*

**1897** Andrew R Forsyth

*... for his contributions to the progress of pure mathematics, and especially for his work in differential equations and the theory of functions.*

**1899** George F Fitzgerald

*... for his contributions to physical science, especially in the domains of optics and electricity.*

**1900** Percy A MacMahon

*... for the number and range of his contributions to mathematical science*

**1902** Horace Lamb

*... for his investigations in mathematical physics.*

**1904** William Burnside

*... for his researches in mathematics, particularly in the theory of groups.*

**1906** Alfred G Greenhill

*... for his contributions to mathematics, especially the elliptic functions and their applications.*

**1907** Ernest W Hobson

*... on the ground of his investigations in mathematics.*

**1909** Augustus E H Love

*... on the ground of his researches in the theory of elasticity and cognate subjects.*

**1911** George Chrystal

*... on the ground of his work in mathematics and physics.*

**1914** Ernest W Brown

*... for investigations in astronomy, chiefly in the lunar theory*

**1915** Sir Joseph Larmor

*... on the ground of his numerous and important contributions to mathematical and physical science.*

**1916** Hector M Macdonald

*... for his contributions to mathematical physics.*

**1919** James H Jeans

*... on the ground of his researches in applied mathematics*

**1920** Godfrey H Hardy

*... on the ground of his researches in pure mathematics.*

**1928** Arthur S Eddington

*... for his contributions to astrophysics.*

**1929** John E Littlewood

*... for his work on mathematical analysis and the theory of prime numbers.*

**1934** Sydney Chapman

*... for his researches in the kinetic theory of gases, in terrestrial magnetism and in the phenomena of the upper atmosphere.*

**1938** Ronald A Fisher

*... for his important contributions to the theory and practice of statistical methods.*

**1939** Paul A M Dirac

*... for the leading part he had taken in the development of the new quantum mechanics.*

**1941** Edward A Milne

*... for his researches on the atmospheres of the earth and the sun, on the internal constitution of the stars, and on the theory of relativity.*

**1948** Harold Jeffreys

*... for his distinguished work in geophysics and his important contributions to the astronomy of the solar system.*

**1957** William V D Hodge

*... in recognition of his distinguished work on algebraic geometry.*

**1962** Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

*... in recognition of his distinguished researches in mathematical physics, particularly those related to the stability of convective motions in fluids with and without magnetic fields.*

**1964** M J Lighthill

*... in recognition of his distinguished contributions to knowledge of the flow of compressible gases, and the mathematical theory of distributions.*

**1966** Frank Yates

*... in recognition of his profound and far-reaching contributions to the statistical methods of experimental biology.*

**1968** Michael F Atiyah

*... in recognition of his distinguished contributions to algebraic geometry and to the study of differential equations by the methods of algebraic topology.*

**1974** Fred Hoyle

*... in recognition of his distinguished contributions to theoretical physics and cosmology.*

**1983** John F C Kingman

*... in recognition of his distinguished researches on queuing theory, on regenerative phenomena, and on mathematical genetics.*

**1985** Roger Penrose

*... for his fundamental contributions to the theory of gravitational collapse and to other geometric aspects of theoretical physics.*

**1992** Simon Donaldson

*... for distinguished for his work which has revolutionized our understanding of four-dimensional geometry.*

**1996** Andrew Wiles

*... in recognition of his achievements in number theory, in particular Fermats Last Theorem and his achievements in algebraic number theory particularly the celebrated main conjecture on cyclotomic fields.*

**2014** Terence Tao

*... for his many deep and varied contributions to mathematics, including harmonic analysis, prime number theory, partial differential equations, combinatorics, computer science, statistics, representation theory, and much more.*

**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 February 2019

The URL of this page is:

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