Senior Prizes

Senior Prizes

Life Sciences Senior Prize. The RSE/Sir James Black Prize 

Sir James Black (1924 – 2010) was a Scottish doctor and pharmacologist.  He established the physiology department at the University of Glasgow, where he became interested in the effects of adrenaline on the human heart.  In 1958 he went to work for ICI Pharmaceuticals where he developed two blockbuster drugs in different fields.  Firstly, the renowned “β-blocker” drugs which changed cardiovascular therapeutics beyond recognition.  He also had great success in another therapeutic area with the development of cimetidine, which selectively blocks the effects of histamine on the stomach and heart with minimal toxicity.  The design of these histamine H2 receptor blockers revolutionised the therapy of the peptic ulcer.  Sir James Black was a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988, the Order of Merit in 2000, a Knighthood in 1981 and the RSE Royal Medal in 2001.

The 2016 winner of the RSE/Sir James Black Medal is Professor Thomas Simpson FRS FRSE, Alfred Capper Pass Professor of Chemistry, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, for his outstanding contribution to the biosynthesis of natural products as a pioneer in the interdisciplinary field of chemical biology. 

The 2015 winner of the RSE/Sir James Black Medal is Professor Iain McInnes FRSE FMedSci, Muirhead Professor of Medicine and Director of the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Glasgow, for his outstanding contribution to the field of immunology through his work in establishing the GLAZgo Discovery Centre which aims to create better medicines for patients.


Physical, Engineering and Informatic Sciences Senior Prize. The RSE/Lord Kelvin Prize

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824 – 1907) was a mathematical physicist and engineer.  At the University of Glasgow he worked on the mathematical analysis of electricity and the formulation of the first and second Laws of Thermodynamics.  He did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form.  He also had a career as an electric telegraph engineer and inventor, which propelled him into the public eye.  He was knighted by Queen Victoria for his work on the transatlantic telegraph project.  Lord Kelvin is widely known for realising that there was a lower limit to temperature, absolute zero; absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honour.  When he was honoured for his achievements in thermodynamics he adopted the title Baron Kelvin of Largs and is therefore often described as Lord Kelvin. He was the first UK scientist to be elevated to the House of Lords and, despite offers of elevated posts from several world renowned universities, Lord Kelvin refused to leave Glasgow, remaining Professor of Natural Philosophy for over 50 years.

The 2016 winner of the RSE/Lord Kelvin Medal is Professor Anthony Doyle, SUPA, School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Glasgow, for his outstanding contribution to the field of experimental particle physics, through developing critical analysis methods, which has led to major developments that have made possible the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson, and for his extensive public engagement activities.

The 2015 winner of the RSE/Lord Kelvin Medal is Professor Jason Reese FREng, FRSE, FIMechE, FInstP, Regius Professor of Engineering and Deputy Head and Director of Research, School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, for his outstanding contribution to the field of Engineering both within the UK and internationally and for his commitment to the public engagement of science. 


Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Senior Prize. The RSE/Sir Walter Scott Prize

Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet.  He was the first English-language author to have a truly international career in his lifetime, with many contemporary readers in Europe, Australia, and North America.  Sir Walter Scott was the third President of the RSE from 1820 to 1832.  His novels and poetry are still read, and many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature.  Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.

There was no winner of the RSE/Sir Walter Scott Medal in 2016

There was no winner of the RSE/Sir Walter Scott Medal in 2015

Business, Public Service and Public Engagement Senior Prize. The RSE/Adam Smith Prize

Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. He was one of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment and is the author of “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” and “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.”  The latter is usually abbreviated to “The Wealth of Nations” and is considered the first modern work of economics.  It would become one of the most influential works on economics ever published.  Smith is widely cited as the father of modern economics and capitalism.

There was no winner of the RSE/Adam Smith Medal in 2016

The 2015 winner of the RSE/Adam Smith Medal is Lord Smith of Kelvin, House of Lords, for his business leadership and his outstanding contribution to public service through his Chairmanship of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014.


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