Royal Medal

Winners of the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London


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 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.

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.



1826 James Ivory
1833 John F W Herschel
1835 Sir William R Hamilton
1836 John F W Herschel
1838 Henry Fox Talbot
1839 James Ivory
1840 John F W Herschel
1844 George Boole
1845 George B Airy
1856 William Thomson
1859 Arthur Cayley
1861 James J Sylvester
1868 George Salmon
1882 Lord Rayleigh
1883 Thomas A Hirst
1884 George H Darwin
1886 Peter G Tait
1888 Osborne Reynolds
1896 Charles V Boys
1897 Andrew R Forsyth
1899 George F Fitzgerald
1900 Percy A MacMahon
1902 Horace Lamb
1904 William Burnside
1906 Alfred G Greenhill

1907 Ernest W Hobson
1909 Augustus E H Love
1911 George Chrystal
1914 Ernest W Brown
1915 Sir Joseph Larmor
1916 Hector M Macdonald
1919 James H Jeans
1920 Godfrey H Hardy
1928 Arthur S Eddington
1929 John E Littlewood
1934 Sydney Chapman
1938 Ronald A Fisher
1939 Paul A M Dirac
1941 Edward A Milne
1948 Harold Jeffreys
1957 William V D Hodge
1962 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
1964 M J Lighthill
1966 Frank Yates
1968 Michael F Atiyah
1974 Fred Hoyle
1983 John F C Kingman
1985 Roger Penrose
1992 Simon Donaldson
1996 Andrew Wiles

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 February 2010

The URL of this page is:
http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/Societies/RoyalMedal.html